Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 27, 2016.
Webpage updated: March 27, 2017

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A series of 32 semaphore signalling stations was installed by the Admiralty between London and Plymouth Dock in about 1810.  Within Devon, these were at Haldon, Knighton, Marley, Lee and Saltram.  The last station in the chain was at Plymouth Dock and was added to a Redoubt that had been constructed on the site of Mount Wise House in 1778-79.  It was used to pass Admiralty signals on to ships moored in the Sound and the Hamoaze.  This was replaced by the electric telegraph in October 1852.

However, the old signalling method seems to have continued for in the Naval & Military Record dated June 7th 1888 it was recorded that: 'The Breakwater Fort and the signal station at Mount Wise are to be fitted with 3 arm semaphores at a cost of 84 and 143 respectively'.

The new signal station stood thirty feet above the original level and was visible fully a mile beyond the Breakwater.  It had semaphore flash lights and that modern invention, the telephone.  The Naval & Military Record states that it was brought into use on Friday November 2nd 1888.

On Monday June 3rd 1889 the Western Daily Mercury newspaper reported that: 'To-day the four pensioned naval signalmen selected by the Naval Commander in Chief (Admiral Sir W Dowell KCB), for the new signal station erected on the Plymouth Breakwater Fort commence duty.  A look-out house has been erected on the top of the fort, together with a steel semaphore, and the house is in direct communication with the chief signal station at Mount Wise and Admiralty House.  Two of the men will be on duty both night and day, but definite arrangements as to the exact number of hours they will be kept on and at what period they will be ashore have yet to be arranged.  Accommodation for cooking and sleeping has with the full concurrence of the War Office been provided for the men in one of the casements of the fort nearest the look-out house and semaphore.'

Chief Signalman J Lawrance was in charge of the Admiralty Signal Station at Mount Wise in 1914.

On Saturday July 22nd 1933 the Western Morning News revealed that the Admiralty had given instructions for the time-ball signals at Devonport, Sheerness and Portland to be discontinued and the apparatus dismantled.  Until a few years before a gun hand been fired from Mount Wise at 1pm daily at the same time as the time-ball was dropped.  The actual date that this would be effective was to be announced.  A similar announcement appeared in the Royal United Services Institute Journal in November 1933.