Efford Fort and Efford Emplacement


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021135

Date first listed: 08-Sep-2003


Ordnance survey map of Efford Fort and Efford Emplacement
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: City of Plymouth (Unitary Authority)

National Grid Reference: SX 51374 56419


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The Royal Commission fortifications are a group of related sites established in response to the 1859 Royal Commission report on the defence of the United Kingdom. This had been set up following an invasion scare caused by the strengthening of the French Navy. These fortifications represented the largest maritime defence programme since the initiative of Henry VIII in 1539-40. The programme built upon the defensive works already begun at Plymouth and elsewhere and recommended the improvement of existing fortifications as well as the construction of new ones. There were eventually some 70 forts and batteries in England which were due wholly or in part to the Royal Commission. These constitute a well defined group with common design characteristics, armament and defensive provisions. Whether reused or not during the 20th century, they are the most visible core of Britain's coastal defence systems and are known colloquially as `Palmerston's follies'. All examples are considered of national importance.

The monument survives as a carefully constructed fort and earthwork battery of 1860s Royal Commission date which retains many features in a high state of preservation. Efford Fort held the key site within the integrated, planned, and coherent defensive complex known as the Efford-Laira position. This position in turn formed a key part of the wider defensive system for the naval dockyard at Plymouth, a system which, by virtue of its grand scale and sheer strength, indicated the extent to which Britain would go to protect its naval interests from the threat of French invasion. The setting and defences of Efford Fort are visible to the public by way of the nature reserves which surround it and the sally-port tunnel of Efford Emplacement is used as a public thoroughfare and has an impressive stone facade on its western side. The monument survives therefore as a visual reminder of Victorian military power and thinking which led to the construction of a massive defensive system around the city of Plymouth.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes both Efford Fort and Efford Emplacement. These works represent a mid to late 19th century fort and earthwork gun battery. Efford Fort survives as a polygonal work defended by a combination of rock cut ditches and a glacis whilst Efford Emplacement survives in the form of an earthwork rampart topped by three earthen traverses each of which held two guns, the whole being defended on its outer side by a rock-cut ditch. Efford Fort dominates the hill upon which it is sited and commands extensive views over the River Plym and the city of Plymouth to its rear. Both Efford Fort and Emplacement formed part of the north east land defences of Plymouth which encircled the Plymouth Harbourage and which were intended to protect it from land attack in the event of invasion. Fears of a French invasion of Britain in the middle years of the 19th century led to the formation of a Royal Commission in 1859 to consider the defences of the United Kingdom. The Royal Commission's recommendations for Plymouth were acted upon by Major W F D Jervois and resulted in the completion, by 1872, of six new coast batteries and a ring of eighteen land forts and batteries based on three principal forts at Staddon and Crownhill on the Devon side of the harbour, and Tregantle on the Cornish side. The land forts and batteries were linked by a system of military roads protected from the likely direction of attack by earth traverses and cuttings. Construction of Efford Fort began in about 1865 and it was completed shortly after 1868 when work commenced on Efford Emplacement. Efford Fort was designed by Captain Du Cane to mount 21 guns on the terreplein (the level area of the rampart), with three Haxo gun casemates (vaulted chambers within the rampart or part buried structures). It contained casemated barracks for five officers and 108 men. Access to the fort was via a purpose-built and defended military spur road. Efford Emplacement was described as a curtain with emplacements for four guns and the proposed armament was four 64-pounder Rifled Muzzle-Loading (RML) guns. In the event, six 8-inch RML howitzers were installed. The emplacement faces east and is sited across the valley which lies between the contemporary fortifications of Efford Fort and Laira Battery; it was intended to protect both of these associated positions, their approaches and the approaches to the crossing of the River Plym at Long Bridge. Little demolition of Efford Fort has been undertaken so that all of its casemated barracks survive. Those to the north were for the soldiery and they comprise two facing blocks separated by a metalled street; the outer block includes two magazines and a store; at the eastern head of the barracks is a separate casemated magazine. The barracks to the south are marked as officers' quarters on contemporary mapping. Also surviving within the interior of the fort is the gun shed (marked on plans as a Moveable Armaments Shed). This building is 40m long and, apart from a later frontage having been put in place, it retains its original walls and is the only non-casemated building. The Fort is well defended by earthworks including ditches and a steep glacis on all sides except the gorge (the rear of the fort) which was defended by a fortified guardhouse mounting 32-pounder guns; the gate arch into the fort was demolished in the late 20th century. As part of the integrated defences, Efford Fort was itself defended by the neighbouring Deer Park Emplacement to the north and by Laira Battery to the south whilst it could in turn offer covering fire in these two directions. On its south flank is a battery of five gun casemates separated by expense magazines which were sited to cover the front of Efford Emplacement and Laira Battery. The ditch at the south west angle of the fort is defended by a caponier, a loopholed casemate allowing flanking fire along the ditch should enemy incursion have taken place. Another caponier allowed fire to be directed down the ditch which fronted Efford Emplacement. All of these positions were reached by way of a long stairway leading from the interior of Efford Fort, parts of which survive. Efford Emplacement consists of a rampart with a banquette (an infantry firing step) and a terreplein or level surface running behind the gun positions. Access to the terreplain from Efford Fort and Laira Battery was via a ramp. The six gun positions, in three pairs, are protected by three earthen traverses. The guns were served by an expense magazine sited off the tunnel which runs beneath the emplacement. This 32m long tunnel, which is connected to the main military road to the rear by a spur road, was intended to offer a `sally-port' for troops issuing to defend any attempted crossing of the River Plym at Long Bridge. It is stone-lined with a rounded arch and rear revetment wall all in the local limestone. The magazine, which lies just inside the western and inner end of the tunnel, has a bomb-proof door which is kept permanently closed. A bridge would have allowed access from the tunnel across the 9m wide ditch which fronted the rampart of the emplacement. The eastern approach to the tunnel was in the form of a chicane so that any enemy would be exposed to fire from the emplacement. Efford Fort was employed as an ammunition store in World War II and a light-gauge railway was inserted to link the soldiers' casemates (used for ammunition storage) to other parts of the fort. Some of the officers' casemates were converted internally at the same time.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: all fencing, railings, fixed signposts, modern surfaces and hard standings, all modern prefabricated structures, all semi-permanent caravans, mobile homes and vehicles whether wheeled or on blocks. The ground beneath all of these features is, however, included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 33066

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996), 188
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996), 189
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996), 185-89

End of official listing