Storms reveal Napoleonic sea defences on beach

14:31 18 February 2014

Recent storms have unearthed the brick base of the former gun emplacement on Exmouth beach. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 2654-07-14SH. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

Recent storms have unearthed the brick base of the former gun emplacement on Exmouth beach. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 2654-07-14SH. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

Archant

High winds in Exmouth last week uncovered the remains of 19th century sea defences, buried beneath the sand for decades.

June Squire, 84, of Hulham Road spotted what was part of an intricate network of sea defences lining the south coast of England.

The part of the Artillery Battery is sited just east of the old lifeboat house, and was built around 1862.

The Napoleonic wars in the 19th century led to the setting up of various volunteer force companies - one was started in Exmouth in 1860, under a Captain Divett, of Bystock.

The original guns were sited in front of what was then the Coastguard Station and was part of the defence infrastructure which included batteries at the Gunfield Gardens.

The Battle of Waterloo was fought in 1815 – almost 50 years earlier - and the gun emplacements were built in response to a perceived threat from one of Bonaparte’s relatives.

The appearance of another Napoleon on the throne of the French Empire in 1852 made a lot of people in Britain very nervous.

This nervousness led to the frantic development of new warships and naval defences to counter the threat.

Napoleon III was the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the defences were built as part of those same fears which led to the HMS Warrior and the HMS Black Prince, the first two iron-hulled warships in history.

The battery was equipped with three Armstrong 32- pounder guns, and one eight-inch mortar.

The structure was ‘of a quadrate’ form – square – and had an enclosed bomb-proof magazine and a home for the battery keeper, in what must have been the safest house in Exmouth - or the least safe depending on your point of view.

The guns were regularly trained at floating targets in Lyme Bay to give the Exmouth Artillery Volunteers target practice – the sounds caused a ‘booming rattle’ which could be heard for ‘miles around the coast.’

The structure remained intact until World War One.

In 1861 the then Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh visited Exmouth and inspected the battery along with Royal Navy top brass.

The Exeter Gazette Daily Telegram on Tuesday, May 24, 1861, reported: “The Royal Party arrived at Exmouth about twelve o’clock yesterday, and proceeded first to the battery for the naval Reserves.

“There were present at the battery the Chief Officer W Tott Esq and the other officers and admiral Granville, Admiral Moorman and the deputy chief constable for the county Captain Cunningham.

“The men stationed at the battery to the number of about 30 were drawn up inside and presented arms at the Duke’s entrance.

“They were then put through a course of elementary drill with rifles.”

June said: “I was out walking over the weekend when I spotted the remains of the Napoleonic gun battery on the beach by the Harbour View café.

“I’ve always taken a keen interest in the history of Exmouth, so when I saw it I knew what it was.

“The wind must have uncovered it.”

The threat from over the channel never came, and the volunteers never fired a shot in anger.

0 comments

Other News Stories

41 minutes ago

Work on the long-awaited cycle track across The Green in Budleigh Salterton is finally set to get under way later this year.

Read more
Yesterday, 11:13
Kirk Westaway, who has reached the international grand final of the San Pellegrino Young Chef competition.

An Exmouth chef, who now plies his trade in Singapore, is to take on the world’s best in a prestigious competition.

Read more
Yesterday, 08:47
Labour candidate Steve Race

Charity campaigner and former Red Cross worker Steve Race has been picked by Labour to contest the East Devon seat in May’s General Election.

Read more
Yesterday, 08:44
Councillor Claire Wright

The pre-election war of words has begun after independent candidate Claire Wright accused incumbent Tory MP Hugo Swire of ‘not standing up’ for East Devon.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 3°C

min temp: 7°C

Most Read News

Advertise in the Paper
Submit a Story
Subscriptions Order
Competitions
Photo Orders
Family notices
iwitness24
Google Plus
Facebook
Twitter
Family Notices 24

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Exmouth Journal e-edition today E-edition



Exmouth's trusted business finder