1. Napoleon Bonaparte briefly visited Plymouth as a prisoner on his way to St Helena and viewed the construction of the Breakwater. He is said to have greatly admired the ambition of the project.
Plymouth Breakwater was built between 1812 and 1848 and transformed Plymouth Sound into a massive sheltered anchorage. At the sametime it rendered all previous defences in the sound obsolete and accordingly new fortifications, most notably the Plymouth Breakwater Fort, were constructed to rectify this deficiency in coastal defence.
HISTORY OF PLYMOUTH BREAKWATER FORT
In 1772 HMS Resolution, Captain James Cook's ship on which he was about to commence his second great voyage of discovery, almost foundered on the rocks below the Royal Citadel. The ship had been anchored in Plymouth Sound when a strong South Westerly wind whipped up the sea state almost forcing the ship to founder. A disaster was adverted but a few years later in 1796 an East India ship called the Dutton was not so fortunate; she foundered on the rocks under the Citadel and it was only due to a quick response by the Royal Navy that the 500 men, women and children onboard were saved. This disaster, coupled with numerous other near misses, led to the acceptance (in 1811) of a plan for a vast Breakwater lying at the mouth of Plymouth Sound between Bovisand and Cawsand Bays. Work started in 1812 and was ongoing until 1848; a timescale that reflected the 3.5 million tons of limestone required for the construction.
The Breakwater permanently calmed the waters within Plymouth Sound but also meant previous fortifications, which had focused on defending specific bays or the narrows to Sutton Pool or the Hamoaze were too far inshore. Accordingly when the major fortification projects of the mid-nineteenth century were commissioned new sites were chosen to protect the sea approaches to the harbour. The western channel was protected by Picklecombe Fort, the eastern channel by Fort Bovisand whilst the Breakwater fort covered all directions.
Completed in 1870 it was originally planned as a massive four tier tower housing 100 guns and 600 men. This was downsized to two storeys only one of which would house weapons. By WWI it was no longer used for housing weapons for coastal defence but did act as a signal station and during WWII it was also an Anti-Aircraft Battery. It was released by the military in 1976.