Written by: D Evans

Peacetime aggravations

After the peace of 1815 most of the coastal defences were wound up. A policy decision on this was made in 1817:

"A Statement of the Batteries and Forts in Great Britain...which the Board have ordered to be dismantled...

On the 5th September 1817 the Board on the Recommendation of Lt.Genl Mann ordered the whole of the Batteries in the Western district to be disarmed except those at the following which were to be kept up viz.

Dock Lines

Plymouth Citadel

St Nicholas Island

Western King Battery

Stadden Heights

Pendennis Castle

St Mawes Castle

Scilly Islands

Upper Sea Batteries at Dartmouth

[The armament of the forts at this time was ]

2 5½ in Mortar

2 42/5 do

10 42 Pounder

13 24 "

9 12 "

The Guns to be left on Skids, to be removed into store whenever it may be most the Depot at Plymouth." [111]

The prefabricated barracks were removed and the forts reduced to a "care and maintenance" level.

In 1818 trouble arose over a piece of the Ordnance land. Having constructed the Hospital, Hyne rented some land from the Board, and part of this had been appropriated by a Mr.Underhay. It is clear from the tone of the correspondence that Hyne at this time had the confidence of the Plymouth Office, now in the charge of Col.Morshead. He wrote to Hyne on April 6:

"I have received your Letter of the 2cl.Inst with reference to the small plot of Ground taken possession of by Mr.Underhay at Berry Head. From the Plans of the Ordnance Land in the Office at this place, I cannot trace to whom the Ground in question belongs, but an immediate enquiry shall be made of Mr Johns, formerly Overseer at Berry Head.

As soon as I have ascertained from Mr .Johns to whom the small plot of Ground in dispute belongs, I shall lose no time in reporting the Trespass to Mr. Crow; in which case Mr.Underhay, I have no doubt, will be prosecuted by Government unless he can prove a satisfactory title to the same; and I think you would do well to read this letter to Mr.Underhay, and caution him against interfering with the Ordnance Lands, as the Board have, no doubt, a correct map of the Grounds, purchased by them in the year 1794.

I can only repeat that if Mr Underhay has taken possession of the Ground that does not belong to him, but to the Board of Ordnance, he must be responsible for such conduct and trespass, as the Board are rigid in preserving their Rights against any attack that may be made to the injury of the Government Property.

N.B. If you should visit Plymouth or be on your own business, I should be glad to see you at the Engineer's Office."

Johns wrote to Hyne on the 7th asking for further particulars about the land in dispute, and on the 20th sent him this letter:

"It.Colonel Morshead desires me to transmit the enclosed Letter to you....and to request you will have the goodness to deliver it personally to Mr. Underhay at his House, and at the, same time taking a witness with you: the letter has been framed on the information afforded by my Uncle. P:S: When you have delivered the inclosed paper, the Colonel will be glad to receive a letter from you, saying that you have so done.

[Enclosure ]


I am informed by Mr.Roger Hyne, that you have taken possession of a small Plot of Ground of about ¾ of an Acre, rented by Mr Hyne of the Ordnance for some years past, and which from an inspection of the Map of the Lands purchased by Government about the year 1794, at Berry Head, that plot of Ground was included in the purchase for the defences then carrying on by the Ordnance Department.

I have also caused a reference to be made to Mr Alexr .Johns, formerly overseer of Works in the Engineer Department at Berry Head, who succeeded the late Mr.Gillett in that Capacity; and the information I have obtained from Mr. Johns, leaves no doubt, but that the plot of Ground taken possession of by you at Berry Head, is the property of Government and belongs to the Ordnance Department.

I have in consequence considered it my duty, in the first instance to make a proper representation to you on this subject, previous to any more decisive legal step being taken, as touching this matter; - and I hope that the answer I may receive from you, upon due consideration, will preclude the necessity of my representing the case to the Board of Ordnance, who will, no doubt, immediately commence a Civil suit against you for the trespass in question, the whole expenses of which must eventually be defrayed by you, in addition to the surrender of the Ground.

I have sent this Letter thro' Mr.Roger Hyne of Brixham, so that I am assured of its being duly received by you." [112]

Underhay's name does not occur in the later dealings concerning the lands.

The forts were not left completely deserted, as shown by a document of 1826:

"Return of Towers, Batteries, Castles & Coast Defences in Great Britain, shewing the number of men that can be accommodated, and the numbers actually in them." The figures for Berry Head are 12 and 1 respectively; the solitary occupant was an NCO pensioner. [113]

This man was to be the agent for triggering off the greatest controversy connected with the forts. On August 1 1828 Col. Morshead, the Commanding Engineer at Devonport, wrote to General Mann, Morse's successor as Inspector-General of Fortifications. He reported on the quarrying, which had been in operation since 1798, from 200 to 240 barge loads being despatched each year, producing £50 to £60 per annum. "I am of opinion, that it would be expedient to put a stop to the further progress of cutting away the Limestone Rocks...because in the course of years, considerable portions...will be cut away to the prejudice of any object His Majesty's Government may eventually have in view.." [114]

The Board of Ordnance clearly concurred in this view, for on August 16 the Storekeeper at Devonport wrote to them inclosing this letter from Corporal Sutton:

"Berry Head

15 August 1828


Your Letter of the 13th Instant I received this morning and in compliance with your order I have stopt the working of the Quarries." [115]

The Board had underestimated the importance of the quarry in the local economy, and four petitions were sent to them in protest. These were from 1) Landowners, Occupiers of Land, Shipwrights, Rope and Sailmakers, Mariners and other interested parties, 2) the Quarrymen, 3) the Limeburners. The fourth was the most impressive, formally drawn up on a large parchment.

"To.the Right Honourable Charles, Marquis Cornwallis, Master General of the Ordnance.

The Humble Petition of the Undersigned Respectfully represents,

That an order having been issued by the General commanding in the District, prohibiting the further working of the Lime-Stone Quarries, on the Berry Head; very serious Injuries will arise, if this Prohibition be continued, as nearly Fifty Sloops, and Lighters, are constantly employed in conveying from the Quarries, in Torbay, to the Port of Topsham; and the Coasting Trade; and Revenue, now derive considerable Advantage, by the importation of Culm, from Wales, for burning the same - And Lime being the principal Article for manuring Land in these Parts, the Injury which Agriculture will also sustain from this Prohibition may be, in some measure, conceived, when it is considered, that about One Hundred Thousand Hogsheads of Lime, are used annually, in the Improvement of nearly Twenty Thousand Acres of Land, whereon upwards of Four Hundred Thousand Bushels of Grain, may be grown, or Sixty-five Thousand Sheep, and Black Cattle in Proportion, be pastured :

Your Petitioners also humbly represent, That the several Lime-Stone' Quarries, on the Berry-Head, have been workd for Time immemorial; and may be still worked for a Century to come; without the least Injury to the Military Works there erected, as the Rock slopes from the Foundation of the said Works to a considerable Distance into the Sea :

Wherefore, your Petitioners humbly intreat your Lordship to take the Premises into Consideration, and grant them such Relief herein, as to your Lordship's Wisdom shall seem meet." [116]

The Board conceded that limited quarrying would be permitted, and on December 13 Morshead submitted a plan showing the permitted area, which was restricted to the Torbay side of the headland. On December 31 the following order was drafted :

"The operation of quarrying the Lime Stone at Berry Head, shall be carried on within the Lines of Demarcation, on the North and Eastern sides of the Ordnance property, facing and adjoining the Seashore of Torbay, only, according to the definition of those lines by the Commanding Royal Engineer. The quarrying of Lime Stone on the East and South East Sides of Berry Head, shall from henceforth finally cease." [117]

Roger Hyne had leased the Common, together with the Hospital and a cottage, from the Board since 1823. On March 5 1830 he wrote to them requesting for the lease to be renewed:

"Honourable Gentlemen,

Having rented the common at Berry Head for the last seven years and my term expiring at Midsummer I beg to enquire if your Honorable Board will allow me to renew it for the ensuing seven years for which time I promise to continue my rent according to the last arrangements at Quarterly payments

Your reply will much Oblige

Your Honors Hble Sert.

Roger Hyne. [118]

The Board were clearly uncertain about the future of the Berry Head site, and the best means of deriving revenue from it in the mean while. Instead of accepting Hyne's offer, they wrote to the Devonport Office of Ordnance to enquire about his tenure of the property. A reply of March 17 stated that he had paid his money regularly, but submitted that when Morshead's successor, Col .Birch, next visited Berry Head he should make enquiries which would enable them to Judge.

Hyne had received no reply by June 8, and wrote again to the Board offering "to paint all the windows on the outsides of the Hospital with white Lead and oil 64 in number I had the honor of building the same in 1810 and the windows have not been painted since or the glass puttied -" [119]

On June 19 Birch despatched a report to the Board. He stated that he had found the fences in poor shape - Hyne had immediately promised to repair them. The Hospital remained in the same state as when Hyne had leased it - "at that period part of the Colonnade in front and one of the wood columns had sunk, and so they now remain." The accompanying letter stated "We are of opinion that it would be advantageous to the Public Service, that this Land should be let by Public Tender." This could be done either in one Lot, or the Hospital could be let separately. They pointed out that a clause in Hyne's lease enjoined him to keep the Hospital and the Cottage, as well as the fences and drains, in repair. Hyne, however, did not consider it was his job to maintain them. The relevant extract from the contract was appended : this was minuted by a Board member "I think there can be no doubt on this point. He must keep them in repair." [120]

These reports determined the Board to submit for tenders. On August 25 the Plymouth office conveyed the results to them :

"In obedience to your orders of the 25 June 1830..We have called for Tenders....and we beg to transmit Two Tenders, being all that have been sent us.

It appears Mr Hyne has offered the highest terms, namely £35 per annum for the Land and Cottage, but if the Hospital is to be included, he will not give more than £30 p.a.

We therefore beg to submit that Mr Hyne's offer be accepted without the Hospital, and whether Corporal Sutton may not reside in the Hospital to keep it aired and look after its preservation, he now residing in a Guard Room which might be locked up." This suggestion is minuted "Approved."

Corporal Sutton was not, however, to relinquish his windswept situation for the more sheltered and spacious quarters of the Hospital, for on September 11 Hyne raised his offer to £35 p.a., and keeping the Hospital in repair. This seemed a better proposition to the Plymouth office than putting the Corporal in as caretaker, and on the 14th. they recommended to the Board that this offer be accepted. A new lease was prepared, dated the 17th., for the term of seven years. [121]

This piece of business clearly stimulated further thought on the future of the Ordnance land, Large parts of it had never been fenced off properly, and Col.Birch in a memorandum of November 12 1831 recommended that this be done at an approximate cost of £70, the tenants being given notice to quit as this property improvement would enable the lands to be let at a higher rate. A plan showing the land involved accompanied this. [122] The scheme was approved, the tenants being allowed to remain in possession till Michaelmas 1832 so as to harvest their crops-.

111 PRO WO 44 540

112 PLY 0/1/19

113 PRO WO 55 1548/18

114 PRO WO 44 307

115 PRO WO 44 307

116 PRO WO 44 307

117 PRO WO 44 307

118 PRO WO 44 12

119 PRO WO 44 12

120 PRO WO 44 12

121 PRO WO 44 12

122 PRO WO 78 MPHH 692/1

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