Notes: The tower has a small but free car park at the base of the hill on which it is situated.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
A round tower from the Commonwealth era that is very occasionally opened by the council to the public. For the majority of time though there is no access inside although the exterior can be explored and there are excellent views across Plymouth sound to Drake’s Island and the Hoe plus Royal Citadel.
1. Lawrence of Arabia (T. E. Lawrence) was stationed at RAF Mount Batten during the 1920s under the fake name of Aircraftsman T.E. Shaw.
Built for protection against the Dutch following the introduction of trading monopolies, Mount Batten Tower was designed to protect the eastern side of Plymouth Sound. Although superseded by the Royal Citadel within a few years of construction, Mount Batten became a Royal Navy then Royal Air Force station in the twentieth century.
HISTORY OF MOUNT BATTEN TOWER
Mount Batten tower was built during the Commonwealth period (1649-1659) as a response to increased hostility with the Dutch over the Navigation Acts. During the Civil War, Plymouth had been a Parliamentary enclave in the Royalist held South West and accordingly the tower was named after William Batten who had commanded the Naval forces that had sustained the town’s populace and made resistance against the Royalists throughout the war possible.
Built to a similar design as Cromwell’s Castle on the Isles of Scilly, the tower held upto 10 guns on the upper floor and was designed to provide protection to the Eastern side of the Plymouth estuary as well as to defend the entrance to Cattewater and Sutton Harbour.
Prompted by the second Anglo-Dutch War, a major new fortification was built on Plymouth Hoe from 1665 onwards; the Royal Citadel. Nevertheless Mount Batten tower remained in use and was still armed in 1716. However, as the invasion scares of the eighteenth century passed, it ceased to be used as a military outpost and during the nineteenth century it was simply used as an observation post for the civil authorities.
More recently, starting in 1913, the promontory was used as a seaplane base initially by the Royal Navy who commissioned it was Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Cattewater. With the formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918 this then became RAF Cattewater until 1928 when it was renamed RAF Mount Batten. During WWII Sunderland Short aircraft, used for Atlantic patrols, operated from the base. RAF Mount Batten was decommissioned in 1986.