MOUNT PLEASANT REDOUBT
Mount Pleasant Redoubt was an earthwork fortification built in 1780 to secure the high ground overlooking the Royal Navy dockyard at Devonport. It was equipped with eleven guns and remained in commission through the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. During World War II the site was used as an anti-aircraft battery.
The late eighteenth century saw Britain embroiled in regular, high intensity warfare predominantly with France but also America and Spain. By this time Devonport dockyard had become one of the main naval bases for the Royal Navy and, although enclosed by its own defensive fortifications known as the Devonport Dock Lines, the site was overlooked by high ground less than 0.5 miles to the north-east. This was Mount Pleasant which rises seventy metres above sea level and has a commanding view of the Tamar valley. Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dixon, Chief Engineer for the Plymouth region, proposed fortification of this site in early 1780 to ensure it could be held against an invading army and to provide landward protection for the dockyard. His recommendations were accepted and work started almost immediately with the fortification seemingly complete by March 1780. A workforce of 1,000 miners were drafted in to construct the redoubt along with various other forts proposed by Dixon.
Mount Pleasant Redoubt was an earthwork fort that was square in plan with each side approximately 42 metres in length. The rampart was an earth bank with embedded sharpened wooden stakes. It was fronted by a ditch approximately 5 metres wide and revetted with a brick wall. The spoil was formed into a counter-scarp bank. Access into the redoubt was via a single entrance on the south side that was reached via a drawbridge. The fort's initial armament, recorded in a document dated 1787, was eleven 18-pounder guns all of which were mounted on the terreplein of the rampart. A further 18 light weapons were installed within a two-storey blockhouse which occupied the centre of the fort and was connected by an underground passage to the main magazine which was sunk within the south-western rampart. There were no barracks within the fort and instead the men would have been billeted locally.
The war with France continued into the nineteenth century and in 1811 Mount Pleasant Redoubt was upgraded. Its terreplein was resurfaced in stone and the west and south sides of the fort were fitted with a firing step to enable infantry to defend these landward sides with small arms. However, the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 saw an end to Anglo-French conflict and Mount Pleasant was mothballed. When fears of renewed hostilities emerged in the mid-nineteenth century, developments in artillery meant that fortifications much further from the dockyard were required. Consideration was given to using Mount Pleasant as a reserve or supporting site but, perhaps due to a fire that gutted the blockhouse in 1855, ultimately this was rejected and the site was decomissioned. It was reactivated during World War II with an anti-aircraft battery installed alongside a barrage balloon tethered to the old blockhouse. After the war the blockhouse was demolished and the site landscaped then opened as a public park.
Douglas, D.C, Horn, D.B and Ransome, M (ed) (1975). English Historical Documents Vol 7 (1714-1783). Routledge, London.
Historic England (2015). Mount Pleasant Redoubt, List entry 1021287. Historic England, London.
King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Kraus International Publications.
Marriott, L (2015). West Country Forts and Castles. Air Sea Media.
Pye, A (1996). The Historic Defences of Plymouth. Cornwall County Council.
Pye, A (1992). An archaeological survey of Mount Pleasant Redoubt, Plymouth.
Mount Pleasant Redoubt was a late eighteenth century/Napoleonic era fort built to secure the landward approaches to Devonport dockyard. The earthworks, particularly the ditch, are much degraded from their original appearance and the blockhouse that once dominated the site has been demolished. Nevertheless the commanding position of the redoubt can be easily appreciated despite encroachment by urban developments.
Mount Pleasant Redoubt. The square fort was surrounded by a ditch.
Ditch. The ditch used to be in excess of 5 metres deep but has been partly in-filled.
Revetting. Both the inner and outer sides of the ditch were originally revetted by brick walls.
Entrance. The modern causeway replaced the wooden drawbridge that originally provided access into the fort.
Fort Interior. The centre of the fort was originally dominated by a large blockhouse equipped with light guns. It was gutted by fire in 1855 and demolished after World War II.
Devonport Dockyard. The fort had a commanding view of the dockyard and the Hamoaze.
Plymouth Sound. The site also has a view of Plymouth Sound.