Bayards Cove, Dartmouth

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are major building remains

NameBayards Cove, Dartmouth
Alternative NamesBearscove Castle
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishDartmouth

Bayards Cove Castle is a small artillery blockhouse built to protect the town quay. Possibly built 1509-10 based on documentary evidence, it was certainly in existence by 1537. An irregular shaped platform cut into the cliff face is enclosed by a 1.5 metre thick and 4.9 metre high local limestone rubble mortared wall. The original access to the blockhouse was through an entrance situated in the northern wall and this survives as a distorted arched passageway. The interior measures 16 metres east-west by 15.5 metres north-south and is defined on the western side by a 6 metre high cliff. At ground level the wall is pierced by 11 gunports. Access to a wall walk was gained by a stone stairway built against the inner face of the northern wall. The wall walk itself is protected by a projecting parapet providing shelter for musketeers. During the English Civil War, the blockhouse was held by both sides and it was also pressed into active service for a short time during World War II, when it was used as a machine gun post. (PastScape)

Bayard's Cove Castle survives well and forms part of a series of coastal defences designed to protect the large natural harbour at Dartmouth. The monument is a popular visitor attraction within Dartmouth. It includes both upstanding and buried evidence for its construction and use.

This monument includes an early 16th century artillery blockhouse situated on the coastline overlooking Dartmouth Harbour. The blockhouse forms part of a series of defensive positions built from the latter part of the 15th century to protect the important natural harbour at Dartmouth. Documentary evidence suggests that the blockhouse was constructed sometime after 1509 and was certainly in existence by 1537 when it is mentioned as the New Castle in a Dartmouth corporation lease. In 1553-54 Leland described it as a fair bulwark, built of late

During the English Civil War the blockhouse was held by both sides, but in 1646 following its capture by the Parliamentarians, it was described as containing five great iron guns which commanded the river. From this date, Bayard's Cove Castle was probably used for storage purposes, although it was pressed into active service for a short time during World War II, when it was used as a machine gun post. The blockhouse, which is also a Grade I Listed Building, survives as an irregular shaped platform cut into the cliff face, enclosed by a 1.5m thick and 4.9m high local limestone rubble mortared wall. The original access to the blockhouse was through an entrance situated in the northern wall. This survives as a distorted arched passageway above which on the exterior is a square moulded arch which may be the original shape of the entrance. The interior measures 16m east to west by 15.5m north to south and is defined on the western side by a 6m high cliff. At ground level the wall is pierced by 11 equally spaced gunports, each with an internal splay, and externally rebated for shutters. One of these gunports has been enlarged to allow entry to the blockhouse and its neighbour has been partly blocked by the building of a set of steps climbing the hillside immediately south of the monument. Access to a wall walk was gained by a stone stairway built against the inner face of the northern wall; where removed, the position of the lower part of this stair is shown by wall scarring. There is surviving evidence for external rendering near the top of the steps. The wall walk itself is protected by a projecting parapet providing shelter to musketeers. This wall walk also gives access to a small area immediately west of the rockface on which gunners' accommodation may have been sited. The irregular shape of the blockhouse has been seen as a response to the local topography, but the structure retains evidence for more than a single construction phase, (the use of different materials in the parapet, a straight butt joint east of the present gunport, and the marked change in the direction of the wall at this point) which may equally well explain the present shape. The first phase building may have been a small circular tower similar to that planned for nearby Dartmouth Castle. Within the blockhouse wall scars visible on the rock face indicate buildings either contemporary with the active military use of the structure or belonging to a time when it was used solely for storage. These may survive partly as buried features. (Scheduling Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSX878509
Latitude50.3478889465332
Longitude-3.57749009132385
Eastings287850
Northings50960
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Ken Bate All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey) p. 9, 24
  • Duffy, Michael, 1999, 'Coastal Defences and Garrisons 1480-1914' in Kain, R. and Ravenhill, W., Historical Atlas of South-West England (University of Exeter Press) p. 158-60
  • Salter, Mike, 1999, The Castles of Devon and Cornwall (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 58
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1997, Channel Defences (London; Batsford/English Heritage) p. 117
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 53
  • Freeman, Ray., 1990, Dartmouth and its Neighbours (Phillimore) p. 54
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 116
  • O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1960, Castles and Cannon: A Study of Early Artillery Fortifications in England (Oxford: Claredon Press) p. 45, 47-8

Antiquarian

  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 115
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 221 online copy

Journals

  • Kenyon, J.R., 1977, 'Early Gunports' Fort Vol. 4 p. 76
  • Russell, P., 1947 - 1949, 'Dartmouth (Pre-reformation) the Castle and St Petrox' Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries Vol. 23 p. 200 note 151
  • O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1936, 'Dartmouth Castle and other defences of Dartmouth Haven' Archaeologia Vol. 85 p. 129-59 esp p. 142-3, plate xxxix
  • Adams, M., 1900, 'The Castle, Manor-house and Church of Clifton, near Dartmouth' Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 32 p. 508 online copy

Guide Books

  • Davison, B.K., 2000, Dartmouth Castle Guidebook (London: English Heritage)
  • Saunders, A.D., 1986, Dartmouth Castle, Devon (London: English Heritage)
  • Saunders, A.D., 1983 2edn, Dartmouth Castle, Devon (HMSO)
  • Saunders, A.D., 1965, Dartmouth Castle, Devon (HMSO)