Author Topic: Knowles Battery, Plymouth  (Read 2266 times)

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Offline ade

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Knowles Battery, Plymouth
« on: July 05, 2015, 10:20:53 PM »
Knowles Battery is one of the North Eastern Defences in Plymouth.
In 1950 Knowle Primary School was built largely within the battery. The construction of the school involved considerable damage. The gatehouse, western flank of the gorge wall and the western wall of the battery 16ft high were all demolished, at least to ground level. A reinforced concrete retaining wall was built against the south face of the ramparts and the hollows and gun emplacements behind this wall were infilled to provide a level site for the upper classrooms.
The area to the south of the battery was landscaped, destroying part of the setting of the battery, particularly the raised ground to the south of the guardhouse which had the effect of creating a shallow ditch. The ditch under the drawbridge was also filled in. The guardhouse and eastern gorge wall, whilst they were retained, were modified to accommodate the needs of the adjacent park and sports fields. Thus the windows in the lower floor of the guardhouse were opened out to provide doors. The rooms of this floor were converted to changing rooms and showers. Two doorways were hacked through the gorge wall into the musket gallery. These gave access to public toilets. The Palmerston Forts Stage C: strategic summary rather worryingly refers to these openings as sally ports.

However, the main reason for this post is to report that the school is being replaced. A brand new school building is in course of construction to the west, outside the area of the battery. The 1950 school building will then be demolished. The car park and outdoor games area will be partly within the battery.
An archaeological evaluation has been done at the site to find out if any remains of the western walls, parade ground and embankment of the military road survive under parts of the site which will accommodate the new outside structures. The foundations of the western flank of the gorge wall were revealed. The report of this archaeological evaluation is available on the Plymouth Council website along with the planning documents. The planning application is 14-01612-FUL.

The old school building is due for demolition starting on 3rd August 2015. It is thought that removal of the old school building will reveal a better view of the ramparts. This may be true, although the ramparts thus revealed will be largely 1950s rubble infill. I believe that a better appreciation of the history might be provided by taking care with the demolition of the school dining room block in case the foundations of the haxo casemate survive, and by excavating the area of the original gateway and the infill under the site of the drawbridge.
One other feature of the battery which I believe may survive underground by the north west corner of the school building is a gun embrasure used to defend the western wall. Although all the records show that Knowles battery had no caponiers, gun embrasures in the east and west walls of the guardhouse provided flanking fire along the gorge wall and it seems likely that the western wall would have been similarly protected from a similar gun position in the return of the north west wall. This return, although appearing as no more than a kink in the wall on the 1933 OS map, is visible above ground at the bottom of the steps leading up to the ramparts, next to the back entrance to the school. A 1949 aerial photograph, a good quality copy of which is available in Plymouth Central Library, shows two white blobs in this return wall one above the other, and may be the limestone surrounds of a gun embrasure and what I take to be a smoke vent above it. It seems to me that the demolition of this corner of the school is likely to do the most damage to surviving structures and I hope that the demolition process will be carefully monitored by Historic England and by Plymouth Council's historic environment team.

If I notice any developments I will keep you posted.

In the meantime I have (hopefully) attached some recent photos. A general view of the guardhouse and gorge wall, a doorway opened out from a window, detail of that doorway, east flank of the guardhouse to show gun embrasure, smoke vent (?) above and a boarded up 1950s window below.

Offline jon brown

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Re: Knowles Battery, Plymouth
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2015, 01:43:11 PM »
ok, will pass on link to this post to relevant councillor and make a query, jon