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Fort Picklecombe stands on the extreme south eastern coast of Cornwallmarker, a couple of miles west of the city of Plymouthmarker. The fort has been a residential complex since the early 1970s but has a history dating back 150 years.


Fort Picklecombe was commissioned in the mid 19th century by Lord Palmerston, Foreign Secretary and then Prime Minister under Queen Victoria. Being an island, Great Britainmarker was at risk from large scale enemy invasion by sea, particularly from Francemarker.

Palmerston ordered a series of coastal forts and batteries to be built in this area to defend the large naval base at Devonport near Plymouth. The coastal entrance to Plymouth is known as Plymouth Soundmarker, and was to be defended by Fort Picklecombe to the west, Fort Bovisandmarker to the east, and a smaller fort on the Plymouth Sound breakwater. Fort Picklecombe itself would be defended from attack from the rear by a series of smaller forts and batteries positioned on or near the Rame peninsulamarker.

Fort Picklecombe was built near an earlier earthen battery dating back to the start of the 19th century. Built of granite blocks the fort was a large construction housing many heavy guns. Over the years its weaponry varied and the fort was always ready for action. It is interesting to note however that not a single shot has ever been fired in anger from the fort. The Palmerston forts’ lack of war action led them to be dubbed Palmerston Follies, the fact that they were a deterrent was lost on their critics.

20th Century

Guns were removed from the fort in the 1920s but after the outbreak of the World War II it was reactivated and manned by the Coastal Artillery. Just down the coast to the west of the fort range finder and searchlight positions were made. The remains of these positions still remain today.

After the war, the fort was decommissioned and it stood derelict for many years. Eventually it was offered for sale to property developers and in the early 1970s it was converted to 103 residential apartments. The fort’s position overlooking Plymouth Sound and within the beautiful Mount Edgcumbe Country Parkmarker make it highly desirable. A quiet rural retreat yet only a couple of miles as the crow flies from the urban sprawl of Plymouth.

A grand building, called the Officers’ Mess stands in an elevated position above the main fort complex. It is said that in order to meet the demands of the then landowner, the Earl of Edgcumbe, the officers mess had to emulate Warwick Castle, complete with towers and castellations. In the Spring of 2007 work was well under way to convert the Officers Mess into flats.

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