Coastal defence battery. An octagonal tower with a single story, vaulted roof, and a parapet. Had three gunports facing seaward and three facing landward. Entrance was via the landward side. There are still some remains of the shutters for the gun openings.
The blockhouse was part of the defences ordered by Henry VIII following a number of attacks from the French, and the Kings Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was built to protect part of the harbour, by the Edgcumbe family.
John Leland, in his Itinerary tells us that,
The mouth of the gulph, where the shippes of Plymmouth lyith, is waullid on eche side and chained over in tyme of necessitie; on the south-west side of the moth is a block-house, and on a rocky hill hard by it is a strong castle quadrante, having on each corner a great round tower. It seemeth to be no very old peace of worke. (Leland, 1769).
It is noted that the name of the blockhouse came from a man called Duval, a Huguenot refugee who camped out at the old blockhouse in the eighteenth century. I have not been able to find any further information relating to this. However, I have found on one map, which unfortunately I could not provide here due to copyright reasons, the name of Passage Point.
The blockhouse forms part of a chain of blockhouses which included,
New fortifications were built adjacent to this one in the 1660’s, which included outworks and gun platforms. And another in the early twentieth century which included gun platforms that were mounted with 12 pounder Quick Firing guns.
I have managed to uncover one legend associated with the site, and, as expected, it concerns Plymouth’s most famous resident, Sir Francis Drake. It was stated that Drake was in league with the Devil, and he stood at the point, now known as Devil’s Point, and conjured up a mighty storm that stopped the Spanish Armada. Folklore for a local hero?
There is hardly any sort of timeline for this site,
1512 Act of Parliament passed to fortify Plymouth and the surrounding area due to numerous attacks from the French.
1537-1539 Devil’s Point Blockhouse was built. The funds came from the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
1540 Illustrated in a rough map and shown as a square, single story building.
Although not a fort, I have included this blockhouse this month as a demonstration of the other types of fortifications being built along England’s southern coast in response to the constant attacks from the French at the time. Forts were expensive, Henry had a large influx of funds thanks to robbing the monasteries and selling most of them off to others. He put this new found wealth to good use for his own protection and that of his realm.
Plymouth was originally known as Sutton until about 1383, when both names are mentioned for the town. It appears to have adopted the preferred name of Plymouth in the fifteenth century.
References & Bibliography.
Britton. J. 1832. Devonshire and Cornwall: Illustrated from Original Drawings with Historical and Topographical Descriptions. H. Fisher, R. Fischer, and P. Jackson.
Cadell. T. 1822. Devonshire. Thomas Cadell.
Childs. D. 2009. Tudor Sea Power: The Foundation of Greatness. Seaforth Publishing.
Higham. R. 1987. Security and Defence in South-West England Before 1800. University of Exeter Press.
Historic England. 2021. Western Kings Artillery Tower. Historic England. Available at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1003849.
Hoblyn. E. 2019. Plymouth at Work: People and Industries Through the Years. Amberley Publishing Limited.
Irving. W. 1967. Tregantle Fort, Plymouth. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 45(182), 117-121. Retrieved February 2, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org.rp.nla.gov.au/stable/44229169.
Jewitt. L. F. W. 1873. A History of Plymouth, etc, Volume 2. The British Library.
Leland. J. 1769. The Itinerary of John Leland the Antiquary: Published by Mr. Thomas Hearne M. A. To which is Prefix’d Mr. Leland’s New-year’s Gift: and at the End is Subjoyn’d A Discourse Concerning Some Antiquities Lately Found in York-shire… Vol. The first. [- Vol. the ninth, compleating the whole work.], Volumes 7-9. James Fletcher.
Murray. J. 1879. A Handbook for Travellers in Devonshire. John Murray.
Palmer. A. S. 1882. Folk-etymology: A Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions Or Words Perverted in Form Or Meaning, by False Derivation Or Mistaken Analogy. Johnson Reprint.
The Earliest ‘Establishment’ — 1661 — Of The British Standing Army (Continued). 1930. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 9(38), 214-242. Retrieved February 2, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org.rp.nla.gov.au/stable/44220086.
Tomlinson. H. 1973. The Ordnance Office and the King’s Forts, 1660-1714. Architectural History, 16, 5-76. doi:10.2307/1568302.
Wright. W. H. K. 1888. The Western Antiquary, Volume 7. Latimer & Son.