Cliff side blockhouse possibly built by Henry VIII to be excavated by archaeologists

Archaeologists have started excavations of a cliff-side blockhouse from the reign of Henry VII on the Angle Peninsula in Pembrokshire.

Blockhouses were fortified sites with a garrison, used to protect an area by using artillery. The first known example is the Cow Tower, Norwich, built in 1398, which was of brick and had three storeys with the upper storeys pierced for six guns each.

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The major period of construction was in the maritime defence programmes of Henry VIII between 1539 and 1545. (Built to defend the coastline after Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon)

During this period of instability, Britain was politely isolated from the rest of Europe by a treaty between France and Spain

Henry’s coastal defences ranged from earthen bulwarks to small blockhouses and artillery towers to state of the art Italianate style fortifications. Henry took a personal interest in the military engineering techniques of the time, and approved and amended the designs himself. Although they were built to defend England during Henry’s reign, many of them were used in the English Civil War and were refortified at various times during the Napoleonic wars, World War I and World War II.

The blockhouse on the Angle peninsula is being excavated by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, the Dyfed Archaeological trust along with a contingent of local volunteers.

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Archaeologist Pete Crane stated: “We don’t know much about the blockhouse, we just know there were two buildings on this east site in Angle, while another on the other side of the entrance to the haven was destroyed when the Victorian west blockhouse was built.”

As the last remaining blockhouse from the reign of Henry VIII still surviving, archaeologists are in a race against the elements before the site, which currently hangs on a cliffs edge becomes too dangerous to study.  Part of the east building has already fallen prey to the erosion of the sea.

A spokesman for tourism body “Experience Pembrokeshire” said: “The strategic site in Angle has traces of defences dating back over 400 years. On the promontory are the remains of one of a pair of small artillery blockhouses built either side of the harbour entrance in the Tudor times.”

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

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