Brixham Blockhouse

Has been described as a Possible Artillery Fort

There are no visible remains

NameBrixham Blockhouse
Alternative NamesBriksame
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishBrixham

Soon after 1500 Brixham Castle was built (by a local land-owner it is believed) to defend the harbour. It is stood above the harbour at Overgang, or above Overgang itself. However, it did not exist for long. There seem to be no records of armaments, though it is known that guns were used and that an appeal was made to the King for weapons. It was probably built of stone from part of the ancient Roman fort ruins - as were most of the houses at that time. Most of the castle had been dismantled by 1600 and the stone used again elsewhere. The cottages at Overgang Steps appear to incorporate some of the walls. A Castle House is a reminder of its existence..." State Papers Domestic offer some evidence in support. They record a letter from Earl of Surrey to the King in 1522: {After describing the risk to ships lying in the Dart}... "To avert this write to the Bishop of Exeter saying that you are informed they are making a blockhouse beside Brixham within Torbay and if they make another at Churston you would help them with ordnance and powder. I see by the gentlemen who have been aboard today they would do it at their own cost". Subsequent entries dispute this was done; for example, in 1539 Torbay, among other West country ports, was "unprovided for". Henry VIII's Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, in his remembrancer in the same year notes that among ports where fortifications were to be made were Torbay and Dartmouth. In 1540 Brixey says that the State Papers state there were "charges to the King for bulwarks at Torbay" but there is no indication of how much they cost or whether indeed they were built. The next date of interest is nearly a hundred years later. In August 1635 when Lord Lindsay was desired to look into Torbay when he was informed of many abuses there including "that an ancient castle there seated, that commanded the road is quite abolished, and the iron pieces made into horse-shoes, and stones to the value of £200 sold"

The stone was converted into lime by the buyers, and into cash by the sellers, but the people seem to have resented this. Lord Lindsay also noted that the people were willing to build a new fortress at their own cost, if His Majesty would supply the ordnance. Brixey also reports that Dartmouth had built fortifications in 1627, but had complained they too lacked ordnance - it is unlikely, therefore, that Torbay was more successful than Dartmouth. (Pike)

Gatehouse Comments

Also possibly sited at Berry Head (SX9456) and lost under the later artillery fort, or in quarrying. Berry Head was a Iron Age promontory fortress formed by a great rampart 18 ft. high constructed across the narrow neck of land, approximately where the outer wall of the Napoleonic Fort now stands. However, Donn's map of 1765 (before the later fort of 1803) has "Ruins of a Danish Castle" marked just south of Shorstone Point (now called Shoalstone Point at SX937567), a kilometer west of Berry Head and this may represent an alternative site of the Tudor blockhouse.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSX925564
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  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey) p. 10 (mention)


  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 219

Primary Sources

  • Brewer, J.S., 1867, Letters and Papers of Henry VIII (1519-23) Vol. 3 p. 997 No. 2355 online copy