digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Coordinates: 50°20′2.98″N 4°8′55.18″W / 50.3341611°N 4.1486611°W / 50.3341611; -4.1486611

Plymouth breakwater from Kingsand showing the 1844 lighthouse and the Breakwater Fort beyond.
Plymouth breakwater from Wembury.
Plymouth breakwater, viewed from above Kingsand.

Plymouth Breakwater is a 1,560-metre (1,710 yd) stone breakwater protecting Plymouth Sound and the anchorages near Plymouth, Devon, England. It is 13 metres (43 ft) wide at the top and the base is 65 metres (213 ft). It lies in about 10 metres (33 ft) of water. Around 4 million tons of rock were used in its construction in 1812 at the then-colossal cost of £1.5 million (equivalent to £89.2 million today).


In 1806, as the Napoleonic Wars impended, Lord St. Vincent commissioned John Rennie and Joseph Whidbey to plan a means of making Plymouth Bay a safe anchorage for the Channel Fleet. In 1811 came the order to begin construction; Whidbey was appointed Acting Superintending Engineer. This task required great engineering, organizational and political skills, as the many strictly technical challenges were complicated by the significant resources devoted to the project, from which various parties evidenced a desire for advantage. Nearly 4,000,000 (four million) tons of stone were quarried and transported, using about a dozen ships innovatively designed by the two engineers. A paper to the Royal Society suggests that Whidbey found many fossils as a result of the quarrying necessary to the breakwater.[1]

The foundation stone was laid on Shovel Rock on August 8, 1812. It followed a line over Panther Rock, Shovel and St. Carlos Rocks, and was sufficiently completed by 1814 to shelter ships of the line. Napoleon was reported as commenting that the breakwater was a grand thing, as he passed by it on the way to exile on St. Helena in 1815.

Severe storm damage in 1817 and 1824 prompted a change in the profile and height. Whidbey continued to work on the breakwater and other engineering projects, including the breakwater's lighthouse (designed by Walker & Burgess for Trinity House), until retirement around 1830. It was finished by 1841, the final work being finished by Rennie's son, Sir John Rennie. The lighthouse became operational in 1844, and soon afterwards a horse-drawn omnibus was driven from end to end, with a full complement of passengers and accompanied by a military band.[2] A beacon was placed at the eastern end, consisting of a 6-foot (1.8 m) spherical cage on a 17-foot (5.2 m) pole; the cage was designed as a refuge for six shipwrecked sailors.[3]

Plymouth Breakwater Fort[edit]

Plymouth Breakwater Fort from inside the Sound

In 1860, a Royal Commission, established by Lord Palmerston, produced a plan for the defence of Plymouth and other Royal Dockyards.[4] The Breakwater Fort was designed to defend the entrances to Plymouth Sound in conjunction with forts and batteries on either shore. Designed by Captain Siborne, work on the oval masonry sea fort started in 1861 and the main structure was completed in 1865. It has its foundations on Shovel Rock and is 35 yards inside the Breakwater. After several changes in plan, the fort was finally armed in 1879 with fourteen 12.5-inch and four 10-inch rifled muzzle-loading guns in armoured casemates. Although the fort had been disarmed before World War I, it served as a signal station, and from 1937, an anti-aircraft training school. It was finally released by the military in 1976.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whidbey, Joseph (1817). "A Farther Account of Fossil Bones Discovered in Caverns Inclosed in the Lime Stone Rocks at Plymouth". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 111. pp. 133–135. Retrieved 2007-02-01. 
  2. ^ Plymouth Times, 27 July 1844
  3. ^ Moseley, Brian (26 February 2013). "[Plymouth] Breakwater". The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Breakwater Fort, Plymouth - the Palmerston battery at the mouth of the Sound". BBC. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymouth_Breakwater — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

113 news items

Scuttlebutt Sailing News

Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Tue, 26 Jan 2016 09:37:30 -0800

Paying homage to The Transat's origins, the 14th edition will set sail from Plymouth – the first city to play host to the race. From Plymouth breakwater, the fleet will race 3,000 miles to Brooklyn in New York, where The Transat first finished 56 years ...

BBC News

BBC News
Sun, 16 Aug 2015 09:41:15 -0700

Construction of Plymouth breakwater began in the early 19th Century to protect British ships anchoring in Plymouth Sound during the Napoleonic wars. It took about 30 years to complete and about four million tonnes of rock were used in its construction.

Taranaki Daily News

Taranaki Daily News
Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:33:45 -0800

35 Years Ago: Douglas brickworks east of Stratford closes; fatal house fire at Oawai Pl, New Plymouth; breakwater plans for Motunui gas-to-gasoline plant dropped; Maurice Symes (Hawera Park) wins Taranaki champion-of-champion bowls title. 25 Years ...

Plymouth Herald

Plymouth Herald
Wed, 16 Sep 2015 07:48:45 -0700

This year marks 200 years since Napoleon sailed past the Plymouth Breakwater on his way to exile in St. Helena, calling it a "grand thing" as he did so. Herald reporter SARAH WADDINGTON travelled out to the monumental structure to see if she agrees.

Plymouth Herald

Plymouth Herald
Fri, 10 Jul 2015 05:55:33 -0700

'I just wanted to see if this was possible and to be ambitious. The block in itself is a monumental form and it has a power to it; it comes with some energy already...' The Plymouth Breakwater is a sight people have taken for granted over the years ...

Plymouth Herald

Plymouth Herald
Mon, 06 Jul 2015 03:18:45 -0700

Dockyard defence contractor giant Babcock International Group PLC had applied for planning permission on behalf of the MoD to install a new steel framework to take the weight of the bell. The Plymouth breakwater is closely controlled by the MoD, and is ...

Plymouth Herald

Plymouth Herald
Thu, 24 Sep 2015 12:30:00 -0700

NEARLY 100 years ago the Plymouth Breakwater was the scene of a catastrophic shipwreck as a vessel attempted to escape the rough seas by sailing into Plymouth. On August 8, 1920 the four-masted barquentine Yvonne smashed into the rocks and the ...

Plymouth Herald

Plymouth Herald
Wed, 20 Jan 2016 04:26:31 -0800

Local fisherman and founder of Plymouth Boat Trips, Ben Squire, is seen travelling towards the famous Plymouth breakwater in new programme Sea City, which airs on Sunday. See Plymouth waters come alive as Ben takes a group of enthusiastic wannabe ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight