This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Linear Training Fortification, Royal Military Repository

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Linear Training Fortification, Royal Military Repository

List entry Number: 1021456


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Greater London Authority

District: Greenwich

District Type: London Borough


National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 01-Nov-2010

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 36206

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

The majority of military 'practice fortification or trench systems' in England designated for their historical or archaeological significance date from either World War I or World War II. A number have been recorded which pre-date these but are generally linked to specific conflicts (1540 and 1545 Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall to defend against possible attack by Spain and France; or 1792 Napoleonic practice redoubt, Crowthorne, Bracknell Forest, Berkshire) rather than the detailed training programme that was planned for Woolwich and Sandhurst. Training facilities have also been provided elsewhere, such as the 19th-century ones at Chatham, Kent. In general, however, they were often built to practise construction techniques, rather than to provide a facility for repeated training as part of a broader scheme as at the Royal Military Repository. Congreve the elder (1743-1814) lived in a time when the British Empire was expanding, and thus was involved in numerous conflicts and skirmishes not only on native shores, but further afield (the training landscape he created was highly influenced by his experiences in Canada during the Seven Years War). During the 18th century, Britain was a main participant in over 35 different conflicts, ranging from the Wars of Jenkins' Ear and of the Austrian Succession (1739-1748) between Great Britain, Spain and France, through the American War of Independence (1775-1783), to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815). However, the concept of a military training ground, which brought together all the training activities necessary for soldiers, was previously unknown. The designed landscape and training facilities of the Royal Military Repository represent a unique collection of buildings and structures whose history is intimately linked with international events of the late 18th and early 19th century and represent one of the earliest purpose-built training landscapes in England, if not in Western Europe. The Linear Training Fortification is the best-preserved individual element of the training ground. The surviving upstanding and below ground archaeological remains, when combined with the excellent photographic, cartographic and documentary evidence enables the building of a narrative about a site that was at the heart of the growing professionalism of the British Army. Added to this it exists within a complex which has stayed in use as a military training area until the early 21st century. It has clear national importance as a unique training facility of the early 19th century. EXCLUSIONS To aid future site management the scheduling boundaries follow in part extant features, which may not be directly related to the Linear Training Fortification. All buildings, modern walls, modern fencing, gates, statuary (including artillery), modern street furniture (including lamp posts, bollards and rubbish bins) and telegraph poles are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. Tarmac road surfaces are excluded although the road sub-strate is included. For the avoidance of confusion the eastern boundary wall of the Rotunda enclosure and the eastern boundary wall of Repository Woods are included in the scheduling as they contain some original, albeit repaired and patched historic fabric. The railings, which surmount the wall, are not of historic importance and are therefore not included in the scheduling. SOURCES Cole Emily, Skedd Susan, Clarke Jonathan & Newsome Sarah, 2009, The Woolwich Rotunda, Former Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich Common, London Borough of Greenwich. English Heritage: London Duncan 1872. History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery Royal Artillery Historical Trust / Firepower Collection (RAHT) MD939/16 - Major Kaestlin JP - unpublished typescript and notes for book on Congreve Newsome, Sarah, Jonathan Millward and Wayne Cocroft, 2009, Repository Woods, Woolwich, Greater London: An archaeological survey of the Royal Military Repository Training Grounds Survey report, Research Department Report Series 14-2009, English Heritage


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


INTRODUCTION The monument comprises the remains of the Linear Training Fortification, which was formerly part of the Royal Military Repository in Woolwich, located north of the junction of Repository Road and Green Hill, Woolwich. Situated within the former Royal Artillery Barracks, it defines the eastern boundary to the Napier Line compound, Rotunda compound and Repository Woods and stretches from the modern entrance into the Napier Line compound (TQ 4273 7801) on a roughly north-south alignment to the modern entrance to Repository Woods (also known as the Dell Gate, TQ 4263 7831). The Linear Training Fortification is part of a much wider military training landscape with its origins in the first decades of the 19th century, the intention to construct the fortification itself being first mentioned in 1818. An English Heritage research report (Newsome et al, 2009) has been compiled for the monument and the associated landscape. The Rotunda, bordering the monument on the west, is a Grade II* listed building; Repository Woods, approximately 180m to the west, is under consideration for registration as a Park and Garden whose landscape is of special historic interest. DESCRIPTION Only the northern half of the fortified line survives as an earthwork above ground. It stretches for approximately 370m from the modern entrance into the Napier Line compound (at the junction of Repository Road and Green Hill) on a roughly north-south alignment to the modern entrance to Repository Woods, the point at which the earthwork originally terminated. Between the entrance to the Napier Line compound and the Rotunda compound, the remains of one of the two original large bastions (a structure which on a working fortification projects outward from the main enclosure, facilitating active defence against assaulting troops) - the 'North Bastion' on the 1867 Bayly map - is preserved as an earthwork platform, along with a section of brick revetted east-facing scarp. Slight earthworks on the top of the platform may relate to the buried remains of the numerous embrasures (the openings in the line to facilitate artillery firing) and emplacements depicted in this section of the line on historic maps (OS 1869) and photographs (Royal Artillery Historical Trust / Firepower Collection (RAHT) Collection Album 27). To the north of the bastion the Rotunda compound is defined by a stock brick wall topped by an iron fence. This wall stands on top of a section of the practice fortification that appears to have been constructed after, though perhaps not very long after, the 'North Bastion' was constructed. This may indicate phasing in the construction of the different sections, including the insertion of the current Rotunda compound access road, between 1839 and 1869. To the north of the entrance to the Rotunda compound the earthwork is defined by an east-facing scarp which turns through a number of different angles to create a variety of flanks, salients and spurs (military positions that project into the position of the enemy) and demi-bastions of different angles and lengths which are much more irregular than the two large regular bastions that existed to the south. It is probable that this irregularity was deliberate to provide greater variety for training, but it may also have been influenced by the location of the Rotunda and/or the previous stepped boundary to the Repository. The stock brick wall and iron fence continue along the top of the earthwork though it is clear that some sections of wall, such as that defining the northern boundary to the Rotunda compound, have been rebuilt in 20th century brick, with only the lower one or two courses of original brickwork surviving. It is likely that the berm or step in the face of the fortification suggested on the 1869 OS map has been lost due to the bank eroding and slumping. The earthwork is most substantial on the spur, located immediately to the east of the Rotunda, which reaches a height of 5m, and this may be no coincidence though erosion in other areas must be considered. If the earthworks were constructed after the Rotunda was relocated here in 1818, which contemporary correspondence would suggest, then this stretch of the line probably had more of an aesthetic than a practical training function. It is worth noting that the Rotunda building appears to sit on a large platform, which is as high as the fortification earthwork and appears to sit on top of the western flank of the Linear Fortification, maybe suggesting an earlier fortification in this position (a possibility also implied by the historic maps). Continuing northwards, beyond the Rotunda compound, the height of the earthwork diminishes and the very slight remains of a 4m wide outer ditch can be seen. The ditch appears to disappear at the southern end under the main scarp of the line close to the northern end of the Rotunda compound. It may be that the earthwork in this section was disturbed and rebuilt to a slightly different line. The earthwork evidence suggests possible phasing as one of the angle changes, where the northern section of the ditch appears to cut the southern section, suggests it was constructed at a later, though possibly not much later, date. On the western side of the boundary wall the earthwork has been disturbed by later World War II trench digging, but short stretches of the western flank can be identified. A number of linear earthworks are visible on the ground, which slope away to the east of the fortification. Apart from later drainage features a possible track has been identified as two small parallel scarps. Other earthworks may relate to later 19th- or 20th-century landscaping. The earthwork stops abruptly at the entrance gates to Repository Woods, and there is no evidence to suggest that it ever continued any further north. HISTORY The Royal Military Repository, of which this monument is part, was founded by William Congreve the elder (1743-1814), Commandant of the Royal Military Repository and Superintendent of Military Machines, as a 'school of methods of mounting and dismounting ordnance'. The exercises that Congreve devised (1774) involved manoeuvring: 'Field pieces over Ditches, Ravines, Inclosures of Lines...To mount or dismount heavy Guns, when no Gyn is at hand; to get the Guns on Batteries with a far less number of Men than are usually employed ... To raise any Carriages that may be overset on a march etc'. These exercises, as Major JP Kaestlin (a prolific researcher c1960 into the military activities undertaken by Congreve) commented, consisted of 'a school of ingenuity in the application of mechanical principles' and instruction in the effective use of 'ropes, pulleys, levers and gravity' to move the ordnance over obstacles, an observation borne out by a series of c1860 photographs which document exercises here. The natural topography of the Repository Grounds with its contours and woods, provided the ideal terrain for the exercises. Though the institution of the Royal Military Repository was created in 1778 it is not clear at exactly what date the Repository Grounds were acquired. It is possible that this land first became available for artillery use after part of the Bowater Estate was leased by the Board of Ordnance in 1773 though the Repository Grounds is not included in what appears to be the associated survey. A detailed account of the purchasing of the Repository ground can be found in Newsome et al (2009). The 1788 maps do not show evidence of any immediate alterations to the landscape of the Repository Grounds and the main focus of activity appears to have remained at the Warren (part of the Royal Arsenal), where the Royal Military Repository was originally based. Map evidence appears to suggest that major landscaping in the Repository Grounds took place between 1806 and 1808. The 1808 and 1815 maps show other significant developments before the construction of the Linear Fortification, such as the construction of a network of paths and tracks around the grounds and features that represent batteries or other artillery training structures, such as earth and wood casemates (fortified gun emplacement or armoured structures from which guns are fired), and ponds are shown on later photographs. In the early 19th century Woolwich provided the perfect demonstration of Britain's growing military strength. Woolwich was already becoming part of a long tradition of promoting military activities and facilities to members of visiting royal families. In June 1814 the Prince Regent invited the Allied Sovereigns to the Repository Grounds highlighting the importance of the landscape and its military training use. The dismantled materials of the Rotunda (originally a John Nash-designed marquee erected in the garden of Carlton House, London, for a ball given in honour of the Duke of Wellington by the Prince Regent in July 1814) had arrived at the Repository by 7th December 1818. This is evidenced by the fact that on this date Sir William Congreve the younger wrote to RH Crewe to ask the Board of Ordnance to instruct the Commanding Engineer, Lieutenant-Colonel John J Jones, 'to make the necessary arrangements for its erection on the brow of the Hill at the east boundary of the Repository Grounds, that spot being the most convenient as well as the most picturesque situation for it'. In the same letter, he also requested, that the surrounding land be remodelled into a series of revetments in order to create a training fortification for the Artillery and Engineers to be instructed in field manoeuvres, which led to the monument that we see today. He specified the features that the Engineers should create: 'I beg at the same time to request, that the Commanding Engineer...make the necessary arrangement for the formation of a section of regular fortification, with Scarp and Counterscarp, Wet Ditch, Glacis and approaches in the Bottom of the Repository Ground, with such additions as may be found necessary to carry on a complete course of instructions in all that relates to the practice involved in the defence and attack of such a work, passing the Ditch, escalading etc'. Congreve concluded that this training landscape 'seems the only thing wanting to make this Establishment the most complete school of practical military instruction, that does exist...or, I believe I may venture to say, that can possibly be devised'. His arguments convinced the Board of Ordnance, who approved the works two days later (9th December 1818). Congreve was confident that these features could be made out of 'Piste or rammed earth, instead of Brick', as he had already demonstrated in an experiment carried out in the Repository. This construction method is visible in a watercolour (Campion c1850) and on a later photograph (1868), where earth sods are shown laid like bricks. However, all available images show the internal (west) face of the earthwork and its embrasures revetted in brick and, although technically possible, it is unlikely that brick was not part of the original construction. As a consequence of using 'piste' rather than brick, Congreve believed that the cost of such earthworks would not exceed £500, for the principal expense would be the labour of the Engineer Corps. Rammed earth absorbed shot better than brick but this probably had less bearing on Congreve's decision than comparative cost. Work was postponed on the fortification until at least early 1820, as priority was given to re-erecting the Rotunda. By the time the Rotunda was finished in May 1820, the earthworks may have been started by the Engineers. Certainly, the earliest known illustration of the Rotunda in situ at Woolwich (RW Lucas 1 June 1820, 'The Rotunda or New Model Room') depicts guns sited along a wall immediately to the east of the Rotunda though this could be an earlier boundary. An 1821 map drawn to accompany John J Jones' inventory of the Ordnance buildings at Woolwich, shows only a spur of wall bounding the Rotunda to the south and again this may be related to a pre-existing boundary as it appears in a different position to the later fortification. Correspondence between the Office of Ordnance and the Engineers around 1824 may describe the construction of various elements of the fortification. By 1830, when Jones carried out the next survey of Ordnance buildings, the full line of fortifications enclosing the Repository Grounds to the east and south is clearly marked and indicates the relative complexity of the south section, with two large bastions, compared to the north section. The fortifications may also have differed in scale between the two sections, as seen on an 1844 etching and the Rock & Co drawing (c1830), though later photographs and maps show that the greater number of embrasures is the most notable difference between the south and north sections. This difference may reflect the aesthetic, rather than practical, role of the fortifications very close to the Rotunda or perhaps the need to accommodate different types of ordnance, or indeed both of the above. The fortification generally followed the original boundary wall of the Repository Grounds and provided a practical, as well as dramatic, setting for the Rotunda, further establishing its permanence within the Woolwich landscape. A large number of photographs taken from 1858 onwards show in great detail the internal faces of the fortification and the variety of artillery mounted along the line. A number show cannons mounted at the embrasures though it is likely that not all the line was armed in this way as others photographs depict gun positions with and without embrasures, with hard standing or with platforms and rails for carriages and for various types of cannons and mortars. Late C19 plans show the earthwork's construction in detail, depicting a flat-topped bank revetted internally by a wall, with a small berm and then a ditch on the outer side. Beyond the ditch is a feature which may be a fence boundary or track. In some sections the internal face was also revetted by a low earthen step as well as the brick wall. The original entrance into the Repository, through the line, was to the south of the Rotunda, framed between the two more elaborate and regular bastions, marked on Bayly's map (1867) as 'South bastion' and 'North bastion', only the later of which now survives. By the time Campion painted his watercolour of the Rotunda (c1850) what appears to be a wooden bridge has been built across the ditch in the same position as the current entrance, immediately to the south of the Rotunda. The establishment of a new school of gunnery at Shoeburyness in 1859 appears to have heralded the beginning of a decline in the status of the Repository. However, it is clear that the Repository Grounds were still used for training by the cadets from the Royal Military Academy, though perhaps in a less formal way than had originally been envisaged by Congreve. The digging of trenches just to the west of Congreve's Fortification in the early 20th century indicates that the use of the grounds for military training continued. A rifle range, assault course and various other facilities were also constructed during the 20th century. Tented camps were also erected in the woodland during the Second World War. At the time of writing (2010) the area is still used for training, continuing a 200 year old tradition on the site.

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

Selected Sources

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

National Grid Reference: TQ 42686 78109


© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1021456 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 25-Sep-2018 at 05:54:11.

End of official listing