Garden Battery was part of the inner sea defences that were built in the 1860s to protect the Royal Navy dockyard at Devonport. Designed to hold seven guns, it guarded the entry into the Hamoaze and was intended to work in conjunction with the other forts and batteries in Plymouth Sound. The site remained fortified until the completion of World War II.
The first defences on the shore of Mount Edgcumbe were built during the Tudor period. Around 1547, concurrently with construction of Mount Edgcumbe House, Sir Richard Edgcumbe funded construction of a single storey artillery blockhouse. This, along with a sister fortification across the water at Devil's Point, ensured the channel into the Hamoaze was protected and with it access to the town and port at Stonehouse. The site was also fortified during the Civil War when it was occupied by Royalist forces who were blockading the staunchly pro-Parliament Plymouth. Later the foreshore was converted into a garden for the nearby Mount Edgcumbe House and in 1747 a private saluting platform (known as Mount Edgcumbe Battery) was built on the site by Captain George Edgcumbe (1720-95). This was equipped with twenty-one cannons which he had captured from a French East India ship whilst he had been in command of HMS Salisbury.
Plymouth Sound was extensively fortified in the mid-nineteenth century due to fears over French rearmament. The catalyst had been the launch of the world's first seagoing Ironclad warship, the Glorie, in 1858. This French vessel outclassed anything in the Royal Navy threatening British maritime superiority and with it access to Britain’s growing number of overseas territories which depended entirely upon freedom of access to the sea. The Government of Lord Palmerston instigated a Royal Commission in 1859 which recommended construction of chains of forts around the sea and land approaches to the key Royal Navy dockyards. Plymouth was noted as an area of significant weakness and a massive fort building programme commenced. It included both a layered scheme of sea defences, consisting of inner and outer lines, as well a series of fortifications to prevent overland attacks. Garden Battery formed part of the inner sea defences.
Work started on Garden Battery in 1862 and it was completed in just over a year. It was designed to protect the main deep water channel into the Hamoaze (to the north of Drake's Island) as well as the more direct, but shallower, approach via the west. The battery was intended to work in conjunction with Drake's Island Battery, also part of the inner sea defences, and the outer defences at Picklecombe Fort and Breakwater Fort. It was a curved structure designed to support seven 9-inch Rifled Muzzle Loading guns. Like the similar structures at Bovisand and Drake's Island, the guns were enclosed in Iron plated casemates constructed from 'Iron-concrete' and granite - a design intended to enable the battery to withstand a direct assault from weaponry at least as powerful as its own. In a sop to the then owner of Mount Edgcumbe - William Henry Edgcumbe, Earl of Mount Edgcumbe - the saluting battery was added to the roof of the new structure no later than 1871. This addition became known as Earl's Battery and re-used the 21 French cannons from the original.
Located some way behind the outer defensive line - which was covered by Picklecombe Fort, Breakwater Fort and Fort Bovisand - Garden Battery was deemed to be of little use by the 1870 Defence Committee and a similar view was shared by the Royal Artillery in 1885 which led to it being disarmed. However, in 1891 four 64-pounder Rifled Muzzle Loading guns were removed from the obsolete Devonport Lines and installed at Garden Battery. Furthermore, the development of the Fast Motor Torpedo Boats meant that there were concerns that a such a vessel could penetrate the outer sea defences and attempt entry into the Hamoaze. Accordingly the three vacant casemates of Garden Battery were fitted with 6-pounder Quick Firing guns.
Around 1895 Garden Battery was disarmed and instead Earl's Battery, which occupied its roof, was upgraded with modern weaponry. By 1899 four 12-pounder Quick Firing guns had been fitted along with two machine guns. By the outbreak of World War I this weapons fit had been reduced to two 12-pounder Quick Firing guns. The site was decommissioned in 1927 but reactivated and rearmed during World War II throughout which it guarded a boom that blocked access into the Hamoaze.
Dyer, N (2014). British Fortification in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Inky Little Fingers Ltd.
Kinross, J (1999). The Palmerston Forts of the South West: Why were they built? BBNO Battery Books.
HM Stationery Office (1860). Reports from Commissioners: Sixteen Volumes: Coal Mines, Inland Revenue, Post Office, Ordnance Survey, Defences of the United Kingdom. London.
Marriott, L (2015). West Country Forts and Castles. Air Sea Media.
Moore, D (2011). Arming the Forts. Speedyprint, Gosport.
Moore, D (2010). Garden Battery. victorianforts.co.uk
Pye, A (1996). The Historic Defences of Plymouth. Cornwall County Council.
Woodward, F.W (1997). Forts or Follies? Palmerston Forts. Halsgrove.
Garden Battery is a Victorian coastal defence fortification that is now located in pleasant parkland. The ramparts have been converted into a viewing platform but there is no internal access into the battery itself. The Tudor-era Mount Edgcumbe Blockhouse is immediately adjacent to the Battery.
Garden Battery. The battery occupied the foreshore and controlled the channel into the Hamoaze and access to the Royal Navy dockyard at Devonport.
Victorian Defences of Plymouth Sound. The Victorian defences were intended to ensure any enemy force was unable to close within artillery range of the important Royal Navy dockyard in Devonport.
Entrance. The entrance into the battery is found on the north side, adjacent to a slipway which would have been used embarking supplies and ammunition.
Earl's Battery. The roof of Garden Battery was converted into a saluting platform, known as Earl's Battery, in 1871.
Tudor Blockhouse. A Tudor blockhouse, built circa-1547, can be found directly to the rear of Garden Battery. This was one of numerous blockhouses built around Plymouth Sound at this time.