Wilkinson's Battery


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
NGR centred on Wilkinson's Battery: SX4827853653

Statutory Address:
Maderia Road, Plymouth, PL1 2NU


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Statutory Address:
Maderia Road, Plymouth, PL1 2NU

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

Location Description:
NGR centred on Wilkinson's Battery: SX4827853653

City of Plymouth (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Mid to late-C16 blockhouse, with later alterations including for use as a battery in the C18; partially demolished and rebuilt in around 1888.

Reasons for Designation

Wilkinson’s Battery, a mid to late-C16 blockhouse, partially demolished and rebuilt in around 1888, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* being constructed of local Devon limestone and granite with surviving blocked embrasures, and despite some alteration, retains its expressive defensive form;

Historic interest:

* as an intrinsic part of the historic development of Plymouth’s coastal defences from the C16 to the Second World War;

Group value: * with other listed defences along Plymouth Hoe, and the Royal Citadel to the north, a scheduled monument.


In 1590, in response to a threat of sea-attack by the Spanish on Plymouth, Sir Francis Drake was appointed to improve the city’s defences. An artillery fort was built on the eastern part of Plymouth Hoe, protecting the entrance to Cattewater and the harbour in Sutton Pool. It later became known as Drake’s Fort. It is thought that what is now known as Wilkinson’s Battery was built around this time as a blockhouse, and was certainly in place in 1595 when it and a platform at Fisher’s Nose were incorporated into the lower fort of Drake’s Fort.

In the 1660s, Drake’s Fort was incorporated into a six-bastioned walled fortification constructed in response to another threat of war, this time from the Dutch; this became the Citadel (a Scheduled Monument). The blockhouse (Wilkinson’s Battery) is shown on de Gomme’s plans for the Citadel, and it remained as part of its Lower Fort from the 1660s. In 1716 it was named Queen Elizabeth’s Tower. It is shown on a map of Plymouth dated 1765, which shows Frederick’s Battery to the west (completed 1754; Grade II listed), and the defensive walls wrapping around Fisher’s Nose to the east. In the mid-C18 ‘the old octagonal tower was renamed Wilkinson’s Battery, mounting a few small guns en barbette’ – meaning to fire over a parapet (Woodward, see Sources). The battery is clearly shown on the 1856 Ordnance Survey (OS) Town Plan of Plymouth where it is named Wilkinson’s Battery.

In 1884 it was reported in the Western Figaro that the Citadel should be demolished and the land given back to the people of Plymouth as an extension to the Hoe. A report in 1885 resulted in only the demolition of the outworks beyond the Citadel in 1888, and this possibly included the top of Wilkinson’s Battery. In the same year, consequently, the lower fort had been sold to Plymouth City Council, and Maderia Road was built along the south side of the Citadel and around Fisher’s Nose and the top of the battery may have been rebuilt at this time.

During the Second World War Wilkinson’s Battery was used as an air-raid post and the horizontal embrasure on the south elevation, designed for observation, may have been added at this time. The top of the battery is today used as a viewing platform.


Mid to late-C16 blockhouse, with later alterations including for use as a battery in the C18; partially demolished and rebuilt in around 1888.

The former blockhouse is constructed of limestone rubble with granite quoins and later granite copings, and is polygonal in plan. At the base of the battery, above the tideline, are four blocked archways with shillet voussoirs; one each on the south-east and south-west elevations and two on the south elevation. These may be cannon embrasures. There is a blocked doorway with voussoirs on the west elevation. Above the archways on the south elevation is a horizontal embrasure, which may be part of alterations made in the Second World War.


Books and journals
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996), 129
Woodward, F W , Citadel, (1987)
M Brayshay, The Sixteenth Century Protection of Sutton Harbour and Plymouth Sound: the documentary evidence, in K Ray (ed). Archaeological Investigations and Research in Plymouth, Volume 1: 1992-93. Plymouth Archaeology: Occasional Publication, No 2, October 1995. pp83-90.
Ordnance Survey, Town Plan of Plymouth (1856) (1:500)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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