Notes: The fort is immediately visible as you drive along the main road into Cawsand (New Rd). Road side parking is limited to residents but a pay and display car park is available with good exterior views of fort.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Extensively modified nineteenth century fort. Outer wall and some features remain visible from public access road and good views of Cawsand Bay. No access to interior.
NO OFFICIAL SITE - CLOSED TO PUBLIC
Castle is privately owned houses.
1. Construction of Cawsand Fort cost approximately £16,000 when built between 1861-3.
In 1779 an audacious Franco-Spanish Fleet looking to land thousands of troops anchored in Cawsand Bay. With no fortifications covering that area and most of the Royal Navy at Sea, invasion looked likely and was only averted by the weather. Cawsand Fort was the ultimate response to cover this deficiency in coastal defence.
HISTORY OF CAWSAND FORT
The requirement for defences in and around Cawsand Bay became clear in 1779 when a 66 strong Franco-Spanish fleet anchored there intending to land 30,000 soldiers ashore. The invaders had planned to seize the high ground and bombard Plymouth and the Devonport dockyard. With Plymouth Sound so lost, and the invaders having secured a safe anchorage from which to resupply invading troops, Britain would have found itself in a difficult position. Unfortunately for the Franco-Spanish fleet an easterly storm, forcing them to weigh anchor, and the arrival of a flotilla of Royal Navy ships under Sir Charles Hardy meant they had to withdraw. Following the departure of the potential invaders both Maker Heights and Cawsand were fortified. Pemberknowse Fort was constructed at Cawsand beach and gun batteries were installed at Mount Edgcumbe overlooking Cawsand Bay.
When the next major wave of fortification occurred in the mid-nineteenth century the lessons of 1779 had not been forgotten. An arms race had started with the French who had built the first Ironclad warship ('La Gloire'; the Glory) at a stroke rendering the entirely wooden Royal Navy obsolete. The British Government panicked and, following a Royal Commission examining the security of the dockyards, instigated the largest peacetime military building programme; a ring of forts surrounding key Royal Navy facilities including Plymouth. One of these forts was built at Cawsand on the site of the eighteenth century battery. It was constructed with 9 guns facing to seaward, covering Cawsand Bay itself, and a further 14 guns to protect the fort from a landward attack.
Improved longer range weaponry on other forts in Plymouth Sound meant the coastal defence role of Cawsand had ceased by 1903. The fort remained garrisoned throughout WWI however and was only released by the military in 1926. Recently it has been converted into housing.