Artillery Defences of Britain

Artillery defences are fortifications built to mount and resist the effects of gunpowder artillery.

They comprisemany different types of structures, including forts, batteries, towers, redoubts, defensive lines, Martello towers, 1860s Royal Commission fortifications, and many smaller works. Most were built to meet external threats to the nation state, which is reflected in their coastal location. This type of fortification is also found in earthwork form, and is described in a separate document, Medieval and Later Fieldworks.

From the late 14th century gunpowder artillery and small arms began to appear on the battlefield, leading to profound changes in military tactics, architecture, and some would argue in the demise of medieval feudal society. To accommodate the new gunpowder weapons inverted keyhole-shaped cannon ports started to appear in fortifications, and from the late 15th century the first purpose-built artillery defences emerge. By the 16th century, to support the widespread adoption of this new military technology new forms of fortification initially based on circular bastions appeared. This was quickly replaced by a system based on the continental trace italienne (Italian lines), which was characterised by low walls, often backed by an earthen rampart, with large platforms for mounting artillery, and projecting bastions designed to protect the outer walls.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the construction of circular Martello towers with an upper gun platform represented a break with earlier traditions. They also marked the origins of the modern concept of defence in depth, with associated 'stop lines', fieldworks, redoubts, and a communication system.

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Author: English Heritage

Article and Image Source: english-heritage.org.uk

Keywords: Artillery, Defences, Fortifications, Development



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