Montagu Steps

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1461607
Date first listed:
17-Sep-2019
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Nr South West Point, Lundy Island, Devon

Map

Ordnance survey map of Montagu Steps
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

Statutory Address:
Nr South West Point, Lundy Island, Devon

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
County:
Devon
District:
Torridge (District Authority)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SS1317443595

Summary

The asset comprises the remains of a series of rock-cut steps on Lundy Island. The steps were constructed in 1907 in order to assist with the salvage of HMS Montagu (Schedule entry 1440450); a Royal Naval battleship which ran aground off south-west Lundy in 1906. The Steps comprise a series of steps cut into the cliff face and formed part of an aerial walkway connecting the Montagu with Lundy Island.

Reasons for Designation

The remains of the Montagu Steps are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: The Montagu Steps are unique and were constructed for a single activity in 1907;

* Survival: Having fallen out of use immediately following the cessation of salvage of the Montagu, the iron stanchions, rock-cut steps and footpath (which includes probable elements of the Montagu’s hull) survive remarkably well;

* Potential: The remarkable survival of the Montagu Steps will allow us to better understand how the salvaging operations of HMS Montagu actually took place and will further allow for a reconstruction of this unique structure to be made;

* Documentation: The works undertaken to salvage HMS Montagu, including construction of the Steps and their aerial walkway, attracted considerable contemporary newspaper accounts and are reasonably well documented;

* Historic interest: The Steps are a tangible historic reminder of the considerable lengths, expenditure, innovation and risks to which salvage companies would employ to recover what were considered to be the highly prized assets of a state of the art nationally important battleship wreck, and;

* Group value: The Montagu Steps demonstrate a direct functional relationship with the extant remains of HMS Montagu. They are contemporary to the wreck, are thought to contain metallic elements of it in their make-up and were constructed to facilitate access to the wreck at the time of its loss.

History

HMS Montagu was a Duncan class pre-Dreadnought battleship which ran aground on Shutter Point, Lundy, in 1906. Initially the wreck was salvaged by the Liverpool Salvage Company on behalf of the Admiralty but in June 1907 the wreck was sold to the Cornish Salvage Company. An aerial walkway, suspended from the Island cliffs to the wreck, was installed and a series of steps were cut into the cliff face in order to assist with the salvage operation. The steps, subsequently known as the Montagu Steps, are recorded on Ordnance Survey mapping, and survive to the present day as a tangible reminder of the salvage operation undertaken on the stranded battleship.

Contemporary newspaper accounts survive of the numerous attempts made to salvage a state of the art Duncan class Royal Navy battleship. Battleships were considered highly prized assets and, despite the considerable cost of recovering their assets, the salvage operators are known to have continued their work for several years, “desultory” salvage continuing until 1922. Of interest to salvage companies were the battleship’s valueable brass, iron and steel elements, whilst the battleship’s sophisticated weapons would again have been of particular interest and value, contemporary reports advising that “efforts are being made to get to the submerged torpedo tubes and condensers, which are of considerable value and first importance”.

A description of the Montagu Steps aerial walkway was published in the South Wales Daily Post in August 1907:

“… Very interesting is the bridge which the wreckers have built from the Montagu to the cliffs. It is designed by Mr James Chenhalls, the head of the wreckers, and is a piece of work of which any man might justly be proud. It is 200 yards long, and consists of four stout cables, attached at one end to big steel piles driven into the solid granite of the cliffs, and at the other end to the stout mast of the Montagu, and it is capable of bearing a strain of 150 tons. Two of these cables support the platform on which you walk, and the other two, while serving as handrails are also attached by iron stanchions to the lower ones, and thus bare their share of the weight of the bridge. The sides are enclosed by strong wire netting. Over ten tons of material was used, and the whole work done in 32 hours. This renders the passage to the Montagu possible in any weather and at any state of the tide.”

Details

First surveyed in 1989 as part of the National Trust Archaeological Survey of Lundy, the Steps were visited by Historic England in October 2018 which preceded a desk-based assessment. The asset comprises a footpath of rock cut steps with the remains of an iron handrail set into concrete created to facilitate access between Lundy Island and the wreck of the Montagu. The footpath is approximately 1.2m wide, and extends for approximately 35m in an east-west direction, turning occasionally to avoid obstacles on the ground. The path begins at a height of approximately 71m OD, and descends to a height of 48m OD. Along the northern side of the path are concrete footings within which can be seen the remains of iron uprights which are likely to be part of a handrail along the edge of the path. The iron uprights have all been removed and cut flush with the concrete footings. The rock cut steps have been reinforced with iron plates in places which are likely to be parts of the Montagu’s hull salvaged from the wreck.

The path descends northward and terminates at a natural rock outcrop where the remains of five upright corroded iron stanchions are located. These surviving posts provided the anchors for the aerial walkway and extend for approximately 1m from the ground surface, and are angled towards the west.

To the north of these posts lie the Montagu Steps themselves, comprising a series of hand-cut steps into the granite of Lundy Island. The steps are orientated north-south and continue down the steep slope of the cliff towards the sea. The Steps were not fully surveyed owing to the unsafe nature of the cliffs.

Sources

Books and journals
Smith, P, Sailor's on the Rocks: Famous Royal Navy Shipwrecks, (2015), -
Websites
HMS Montagu, Lundy Island, accessed 06/12/2018 from https://www.submerged.co.uk/hms-montagu-lundy-island/
Lundy Island Tour: Montagu Steps, accessed 06/12/2018 from http://www.lundy.org.uk/index.php/about-lundy/island-tour/88-montagu-steps
Montagu Steps, accessed 06/12/2018 from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/582734

Legal

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.

End of official listing

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