The sites today

Earith Earthwork

above Surviving Civil War fortifications, showing the Queen's Sconce and Stoke Lodge at Newark, Gallant's Bower, Dartmouth, and Horsey Hill, Cambridgeshire, the defences around Basing House. Hampshire, and the remains of the Royalist defences at Carmarthen. (From Harrington, 1987)

Pre Civil War Sconce

above Surviving Civil War fortifications, showing the Queen's Sconce and Stoke Lodge at Newark, Gallant's Bower, Dartmouth, and Horsey Hill, Cambridgeshire, the defences around Basing House. Hampshire, and the remains of the Royalist defences at Carmarthen. (From Harrington, 1987)

right The Queen's Sconce, a typical Civil War fort at Newark built as part of the exterior defences by the Royalists. This earthwork is the finest surviving fortification from the war. (Photograph: Cambridge University Collection)

Due to destruction during the war, intentional demolition ('slighting') after the war, and urbanisation in the 19th and 20th centuries, the vast majority of the fortifications built between 1642 and 1651 have not survived, although some have been located by archaeological excavation at Gloucester, Exeter, Chester and Plymouth. In a few cases, such as Newark-on-Trent, Bristol, York, Worcester, and Carmarthan, vestiges of the original town defences still exist as earthworks. Other sites in the countryside have suffered from agricultural practices and today several are visible as cropmarks only. Due to the very nature of many Civil War fortifications, i.e. hastily built of earth and not always reflecting contemporary principles, shapeless mounds and embankments around castles and other strategic locations might represent 17th-century fortifications. It is hard to tell in many cases, and excavation often reveals little, but more sites remain to be located and fieldwork, coupled with documentary research, might result in the identification of these earthworks as Civil War fortifications.

Pew of the existing sites are signposted, although many have been scheduled as ancient monuments and are protected from further development. Archaeological excavations have been conducted at some sites. A few sites are marked on Ordnance Survey maps (reference numbers are given in brackets), like the well-preserved bastioned fort at Ballachurry on the Isle of Man, the two forts at Earith and Horsey Hill, Cambridgeshire, and the various sites around Newark. Examples of defensive works exist at several castles and manor houses such as the earthwork bastions attached to the circular enceinte at Basing House, Hampshire, and similar earthworks at Donnington Castle, near Newbury, and at Cambridge Castle.

Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, possesses by far the greatest surviving number of fortifications from the war, although, with the exception of the Queen's Sconce, many of these are difficult to locate on the ground and can only be determined from the air. As late as the 1880s, a King's Sconce lay on the opposite side of the town but this was subsequently destroyed.

The Queen's Sconce, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire (SK 791531) Newark, lying on the old Great North Road where it crosses the River Trent, can be reached by train from King's Cross, London, or by car via the A KM), which just bypasses the town. The old castle stands by the crossing point of the river and is a ruin today but played a significant role in the war. Shot marks from cannon balls fired by the Scots during the siege can be made out on the lower levels of the walls. Just less than 2 miles south of the town lies the Queen's Sconce, the finest Civil War fortification surviving in Britain. To reach the site, head south out of the town along the A46 and follow signs to Havvton (the site of another Civil War fortification). Turn right into Boundary Road near Albert Street, lust off the road is the signposted 'Sconce Hills Car Park'. The earthwork is across a playing field from the Sconce Hills Play Area.

Restored in 1957, the bastions have since become rather overgrown with gorse but it is still an outstanding example of a 17th-century artillery fortification, and there are plans to do further restoration work on the site. The quarry ditches are still deep, 12-lSft, and in some places 70ft wide. The site covers an area just over 3 acres with four large projecting bastions. A large pit in the centre might be a later feature. A recent metal-detecting survey on nearby fields has produced large quantities of musket balls.

Accommodation can be found in the town. The Queen's Sconce is now administered by Newark and Sherwood District Council. For further information contact the council at Kelham Hall, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG23 5QX. There are no facilities at the site nor are there any signposts.

Gallant's Bower, Dartmouth, Devon (SX 884504) Now administered by the National Trust, the site was restored in 1997 when many of the trees masking the earthwork were cut down. The fort was built by the Royalists to defend the town of Dartmouth from attack and sits on a hill above Dartmouth Castle overlooking the River Dart. It is situated just over a mile south-east of the town and can be reached by taking the B3205 road.

Distant view of the Queen's Sconce. Newark-on-Trent. Nottinghamshire. The earthwork stands on the edge of public playing fields just outside the town. Two of the bastions can be seen with vegetation growing on them.

Dorset Storm 1987
View of the Queen's Sconce showing the curtain connecting two of the bastions. These embankments were probably surmounted with sharpened palisades and possibly had storm poles projecting outward.

Surviving fortifications built around castles at Cambridge, Huntly and King's Charles Castle,Tresco on the Scilly Isles, the forts at Earith, Cambridgeshire, and Muskham Bridge. Newark, the battery at Cornbury Park. Oxfordshire, and the ramp built for cannon at the prehistoric site of Maumbury Rings. Dorchester. Dorset. (From Harrington. 1987)

Bastion Fortification

It is a pentagonal earthwork fortification with a high curtain and five angular bastions. A twin fortification exists across the river at Kingswear. Named Mount Ridley, it is not as well preserved as a modern building named 'The Redoubt' sits atop the earthwork; this building is now subdivided into holiday apartments and public access to the site is restricted. Accommodation can be found in Dartmouth. English Heritage administers Dartmouth Castle and Bayard's Cove, an early-16th-century artillery fort. Details about access to Gallant's Bower can be obtained from the regional National Trust office, Killerton House, Broadclyst, Exeter EX5 3LE (Telephone: 01292 881691).

Brandon Hill, Bristol, Avon (ST 5797828)

On Brandon Hill, Bristol, may be seen the remains of a tort adjacent to Cabot Tower, and proceeding south, vestiges of an earth bank 1.2m high with small bastions, one with a half-moon outwork, and a larger bastion, known as the Water Fort, near Queen's Parade. The remains are in a public park.

Basing House, Basingstoke, Hampshire (SU 663527) The site of one of the most famous sieges of the Civil War, the ruins of Basing House are today owned by Hampshire County Council and are open to the public. Extensive archaeological excavations have been conducted on the site and considerable evidence about the siege has been uncovered. Material from these excavations is displayed at the site. The surviving earthwork fortifications built during the Civil War can be viewed from various places along the Basing House Trail. Nearby Basingstoke offers accommodation.

Donnington Castle, Newbury, Berkshire (SU 461694) Donnington Castle lies 1'/- miles north-west of Newbury, Berkshire, between the B4000 to Lambourn and the B4494 to Wantage. The castle, owned by English Heritage, is located on high ground commanding the former Great Bath Road and the old route from Southampton to Oxford. It was virtually destroyed during the war and the only masonry standing to any great height is the gatehouse with its two towers, one of which bears the marks of a repaired breech. However, the earthwork fortifications built by the Royalists are quite impressive, particularly the bastion lying in front of the gatehouse and the diamond-shaped bastion lying to the south of the castle.

Cambridge Castle, Cambridgeshire (TL 446593)

The site of the Norman and medieval castle at Cambridge is now occupied by council offices but two of the large earthwork bastions built in 1643 can be viewed.

Earith Bulwark and The Standground, Horsey Hill, Cambridgeshire (TL 393750; TL 224960)

Two fine Civil War fortifications survive in the old county of Huntingdonshire. They can best be appreciated from the air but the low-level earthworks can be made out at ground level. Their purpose is not too clear today, for they appear to be situated in places unlikely to have been of strategic value in the war. The site at Earith sits in a field near the old River Bedford.

Carmarthen, Dyfed (SN 412200)

I'art of the earthwork enceinte survives west of Friar's Park at the east end of the town. The site, known as The Bulwarks, consists of a regular bastion attached to a ditch and bank that runs south towards the River Towy, where it connects to a demi-bastion now filled in. These earthworks have been described as the only example of an earthen town defence in anything like its original condition.

Raglan Castle, Gwent (SO 415083)

Raglan is about halfway between Monmouth and Abergavenny just off the A40. The castle is situated % mile north of the village, and is administered by CADW; Welsh Historic Monuments. The devastation brought by the Civil War and the attempts at slighting the towers can be seen clearly. Not so obvious are the Civil \\\vs defences or \he VarUamenUman siegewovks. One such battery hes 11 * m\\e north-east of the castle, but construction of a small water-tank has damaged the site and its form can be appreciated only from the air. Part of the massive defences built by the Royalists survives on the edge of the farmyard of Castle Farm just by the ruins. This is privately owned.

Fort Royal, Worcester, Hereford and Worcester (SO 855543) Worcester had extensive earthwork defences built during the war but these have been swept away over the centuries. The remains of the quadrangular earthwork known as Fort Royal do survive, however, to the east of the Cathedral. Walking past the Civil War Museum at The Commandery along Sidbury Road, turn left into Wylde's Lane. On the right about 100yds is Fort Royal Park.

Isle of Man

Besides several coastal batteries, two Civil War forts survive at Bishopscourt (SC 328924) and at Ballachurry (SC 405970). The latter, named Fort Loyal, has been recently restored.

+1 -1

Post a comment