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Staddon Cottage, Including Former Magazine, Wembury

Description: Staddon Cottage, Including Former Magazine

Grade: II
Date Listed: 27 February 2014
Building ID: 1416491

OS Grid Reference: SX4880551223
OS Grid Coordinates: 248805, 51223
Latitude/Longitude: 50.3415, -4.1261

Location: battery PL9 0AD

Locality: Wembury
Local Authority: South Hams
County: Devon
Postcode: PL9 0AD

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Listing Text


A former battery guard house with attached magazine range, of late-C18/ early-C19 date, and later. Associated with Staddon Battery (qv.), the earliest known military fortification on Staddon Heights. Attached to the front of the magazines is a mid-C20 residential extension, which is not of special interest.

Reason for Listing

Staddon Cottage, a former battery guard house and magazine range of late-C18/ C19 date, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: it has strong cultural and historical significance, within both a local and national context, marking the strengthening of coastal fortifications prior to the period of the Napoleonic Wars;
* Date: as a pre-1856 military structure there is a presumption in favour of listing;
* Intactness: despite some adaptation, the original use and function of the buildings is legible and the buildings survive well;
* Group Value: it forms an historic group with the Staddon Heights military landscape.


The fortifications around the port of Plymouth and the naval base at Devonport have expanded and been modified steadily as weapons technology has advanced, and as military threats have changed. In the late C15 and early C16, small blockhouses were built along the cliffs of Plymouth Hoe. By 1600, Plymouth Fort had been built where the Royal Citadel now stands, and Drake's Island was better fortified. The earliest known fortifications at Staddon Heights are shown on a map of c.1587, where a barricade and cannon are depicted. During the C18, the almost continual wars with France saw the expansion of Plymouth's defences, including on Staddon Heights in Devon and Maker Heights in Cornwall. There are accounts of there being a Watch House and beacon at Staddon in the C18.

Staddon Battery is not referred to in Col. Dixon's report of January 1780, but was built in 1779 (Oppenheim, p94) and is shown on Gardner's Map of 1784, as an oval depression with a square building roughly at its centre. The building was probably the guard house, now Staddon Cottage. The magazines to the north are not shown on Gardner's map, and are probably of later, mid-C19 date. Withy Hedge is marked to the north of the battery on Gardner's map, and no structures apart from the battery are shown on the headland, which mainly features enclosed fields and cliffs. In 1804 the battery was armed with ten 12-pounder and 18-pounder small, smooth-bore guns. The guard room was extended to the south some time after an inspection of 1811 by Lt. Gen. Mercer, at which time the battery was surveyed. The associated plan is titled "A Plan of the battery at Staton Hill above Withy-Hedge". The subsequent extension to the south may stand on the site of an earlier structure. A building with an enclosure matching the current terrace/ terreplein is also shown on the site on a tithe map of 1843, on the edge of Battery Field.

Staddon Battery had a clear view over the approach to Plymouth Sound by sea. A breakwater was built at the entrance to the Sound, to the designs of the renowned engineer and bridge builder John Rennie (1761-1821), with construction beginning in 1811. The mile-long protective breakwater, his grandest executed work for the Admiralty, was not completed until 1848, although its scale was admired by Napoleon when he arrived as a prisoner at Plymouth in 1815, to Rennie's gratification. The breakwater was completed by his son, Sir John Rennie (1794-1874), who also built Bovisand Pier and Harbour (1816-24), which watered ships via a nearby reservoir, thereby easing the increasing traffic congestion in the port of Plymouth. Staddon Battery was disarmed in 1853 following the completion of Staddon Point Battery (qv.) to the south in 1847, although it may have continued to be used by the military after this time.

In the 1860s the fortifications at Staddon Heights were developed significantly following the Royal Commission of 1859, which had considered the need for modern defences to protect Royal Dockyards, ports and arsenals in the United Kingdom. This was a response to the perceived increased threat of attack following the strengthening of the French Navy. The Commission's recommendations for Plymouth resulted in the completion of six new coastal batteries and a ring of eighteen land forts and batteries. These were based on three principal forts which are located at Tregantle on the Cornish side of Plymouth harbour, and Crownhill and Staddon on the Devon 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. There were eventually 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. They are the most visible core of Britain's C19 coastal defence systems and are known colloquially as "Palmerston's follies". From 1861, Breakwater Fort (qv.) was built 100 yards behind the centre of the breakwater, and Fort Bovisand (qv.) was built below Staddon Point Battery between 1861 and 1871. Probably during the 1860s, a covered way was created to link Staddon Point Battery with Staddon Battery and Watch House Brake Battery (1869), both to the north. It would also eventually connect with Staddon Heights Battery (1894). In c.1904, the Watch House Brake Battery was replaced with Watch House Battery (qv.), and Staddon Heights Battery was disarmed.

In the early C20 the guard house of Staddon Battery was converted to a dwelling house and a number of modifications were made. During the Second World War a barrage balloon anchorage site was established to the south-east of Staddon Battery, close to the rifle butts wall associated with Fort Staddon. In the mid-C20, the earth bank that protected the west flank of the magazines was replaced with a residential extension. By this time, tree growth had increasingly masked views of the battery from most vantage points. In 2013 Staddon Cottage continues to serve as a residence, with the magazines used as workshops and storage areas.


A former battery guard house with attached magazine range, of c.1780, extended in c.1812 and converted to a dwelling in the early C20.

MATERIALS: the guard house is built of local rubble stone. The roof is covered in Delabole slate. The magazines are constructed of rubble stone and brick, with timber doors separating the chambers.

PLAN: a single-storey guard house, the wider central bay is the original guard room. The kitchen bay to the left was the store room. The right bay is a further reception room of c.1811. Attached to the rear of the kitchen door is a passage to the magazine range, arranged as two parallel central magazines with adjacent narrow service areas at each end of the range. At the north end is a lobby and exit. Attached to the front of the magazines is a mid-C20 residential extension, which is not of special interest.

EXTERIOR: the guard house is rendered and has C20 projecting square bays attached to the left and right openings. The central door opening has been widened. The rear elevation is uncovered rubble stone with a visible construction joint between the left and central bays. The hipped roof is covered in Delabole slate. Fixed to the exterior of the kitchen (north wall) is a George IV Board of Ordnance plaque, formerly sited on the exterior of the south wall. The magazine range is largely obscured from view by the residential extension. The rear is set in the bank behind the guard house, with the curved top of a brick vaulted magazine roof, and a modern covering. A tall, thick, stone wall stands at the junction of two ranges.

INTERIOR: the guard house is fitted with panelling, decorative ceiling joists and ceiling cornices of early C20 date. The roof structure appears to have been replaced at this time. In the central room is a chimneypiece constructed from ecclesiastical furniture. The entrance to the magazine range from the south is via a wide timber door with a fitted brass Hobbs and Co.s lock of c.1851 date. The brass key is stamped "NO 3 SHELL STORE INNER". The walls and vaulted roofs of the magazines are lined with brick, with some rubble stone structure to the walls. There is a hatchway inserted in the north wall of the north magazine.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.