Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 01, 2016.
Webpage updated: February 02, 2016

To go to the Home Page          To go to the A-Z Contents page



For a half a century after the Dock was built at Point Froward, it was considered to be safe from attack because of the complicated entrance to the Hamoaze.  Then in 1756, when the Seven Years' War with France started, it was suddenly realised the dastardly French could land elsewhere along the coast and attack the Dockyard from the landward side.  With great urgency, in 1757 and 1758 two Acts of Parliament were passed to authorise the construction of defence fortifications.

Work started immediately and a ditch ranging in width from 12 to 18 feet was dug out of the limestone and slate.  Six barracks, known as "squares", were also built to house the troops, with two more, New Cumberland and New Granby, being added afterwards.  No invasion came and the work was stopped until in 1779 a fleet of French and Spanish vessels appeared off the coast and panic set in again.  General Dixon of the Board of Ordnance enlarged the ditch to 12 feet in depth and around 12 feet in width.  Again no invasion occurred and the work stopped.

When another war with the French was seen as imminent the Board of Ordnance purchased 195 acres of land behind the glacis and in 1787 the Duke of Richmond, Master-General of the Ordnance, erected the 12-feet high King's Interior Boundary Wall.  Other defensive fortifications including great archways with drawbridges were set up around Devonport and on the Cornish side of the river.

Although the Duke of Wellington condemned the fortifications as being inadequate in 1815, the work continued until 1853 but as the science of warfare developed so "The Lines" became redundant.  When the Blockhouse was destroyed by fire in 1855 it was not rebuilt.  Between 1854 and 1858 the old "squares" were demolished and replaced with Raglan Barracks.  The drawbridges were removed in 1865 and the archway on Devonport Hill was removed in 1877.  Finally the trenches were filled in during 1886.

Since the end of the Second World War most the Lines and barracks have been swept away, with only isolated remnants that have Listed Building status left to testify to Devonport's great military past.