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CHUDLEIGH FORT, EX39 4AT

GETTING THERE

WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?

Aside from the location, nothing is now visible of the Civil War fortification with the only remains being from the nineteenth century folly. However the site offers good views over the town and the river.

NO OFFICIAL SITE

ADDITIONAL NOTES

1. Bideford derives its name "by the ford" - a description to the adjacent fording point over the River Torridge. This went out of use in 1280 when the first bridge was built.


War Memorial. The fort is now in a landscaped park which it shares with the town’s war memorial.


POSTCODE

LAT/LONG

Car Parking Option

EX39 4AU

51.017281N 4.200819W

Chudleigh Fort

EX39 4AT

51.016065N 4.198545W

Notes:  Fort is located in a public park on the east side of the river. Multiple car parking options in the town but all require a fairly steep climb to the site.

England > South West CHUDLEIGH FORT

One of a pair of earthwork artillery emplacements intended to control access along the River Torridge, Chudleigh Fort was constructed on behalf of Parliament upon the outbreak of the Civil War. As the Royalists gained the upper hand in the South West, Bideford was besieged with fierce fighting at the fort. It was rebuilt as a folly in the nineteenth century.

HISTORY OF CHUDLEIGH FORT


When the English Civil War started in August 1642, the control of the south west became a key Royalist objective. Aside from Cornwall's lucrative tin trade, the area also included significant defendable ports that would be essential to the Royalist cause as a means to import weapons and manpower from the continent. Bideford was one such port and, by the time of the conflict, was one of England's largest such facilities having become rich from imports of wool. However, Charles I had alienated much of the mercantile community and Bideford did not support his cause at the outbreak of hostilities. Nor did Sir George Chudleigh, a major Devon landowner. Both he and his son James, himself an experienced military commander who had served with the Royalist army in Ireland, took up arms for Parliament serving with the Barnstable garrison whose remit included Bideford. At some point after the commencement of hostilities in August 1642, James Chudleigh built a pair of 8-gun, earthwork artillery forts to guard the town sited on the high ground overlooking either side of the River Torridge. Although the view today is wooded by pine trees, the two sites originally commanded a panoramic view along the River denying its use to any Royalist shipping.


By Summer 1643 the Royalists had achieved significant success in the South West. Their commander, Sir Ralph Hopton, had won victories at the Battles of Braddock Down (19 January 1643) and Stratton (16 May 1643) with the latter seeing Parliamentary forces retreat into Bideford where they were subsequently besieged. Further victories at Lansdown (5 July 1643) and Roundway Down (13 July 1643) eliminated any hope that the town could be relieved and in August 1643 it was stormed by Royalist forces under the Command of Colonel Digby. Fierce fighting took place in the vicinity of the forts but ultimately the town fell. James Chudleigh was not present at the fighting - he had been captured during the engagement at Stratton and incarcerated at Oxford. After a period in captivity, he defected to the Royalist cause (along with his father and brother).


The fort was abandoned following the end of the Civil War but the site was not redeveloped and in the mid nineteenth century it was converted into a five-sided, stone folly by Mr James Ley from Northam. The new structure had 14 gun emplacements but was never intended to be a defensive site as evidenced by the slender stone wall and open rear. A plaque was installed on structure noting "Fort erected by Major-General Chudleigh. April 1642" - the latter date being a mistake given the Civil War did not start until August that year! The site was purchased by public subscription in 1921 and converted into a public park.

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