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History of St Anthony Head

A brick corridor with a barrel ceiling and single bulb lights running down the middle of it. There are small windows in the external wall on the right. In the foreground gun ammunition can be seen.
St Anthony Head Battery underground Magazine Store | © National Trust Images/George Taylor

Concrete buildings at St Anthony Head, on the tip of the Roseland Peninsula, represent a history of military fortifications, including a gun battery, ammunition stores and gunner's lookout. The area has been strategically used for many years, as far back as the French invasion when the first artillery was built in 1796. It’s played an important role in defending Falmouth and the deep waters of the estuary from seaborne attack.

The first artillery

The first artillery was built in 1796 in response to the French invasion and was a battery of 24-pounder cannons. In 1885 these were replaced by 64-pounder muzzle loaders.

A close up view of the detail on the St Anthony Head gun battery. A large manmade structure sunk into the ground which would have housed a gun. Numbers can be seen around the edge of the pit where the gun would have been situated. From the battery the view out across the sea can be seen on a calm, sunny day with bright blue skies.
The gun battery at St Anthony Head | © National Trust Images/Hilary Daniel

St Anthony Head gun pit

1904 saw a completely new coastal fort built, with two huge 6-inch VII breech loading guns, each with 23ft long barrels.

Gun pedestals

The gun pedestals were mounted in 7ft deep pits, and below them was the magazine, entered by a central door. The magazine layout was designed to reduce the risk of accidental explosion.

Hand-cranked hoists

The shells and cartridges were stored apart from each other and lifted to the gun pits using separate hand-cranked hoists, only coming together when they were loaded into the guns.

St Anthony Head battery hoist

The battery remained fully operational, and the magazine filled with ammunition, until 1956 when the guns were dismounted, cut up and taken away for scrap. The headland came into the care of the National Trust in 1959 and the gun pits were filled with rubble.

The eastern pit

The eastern pit has now been excavated to expose the original walkways, stores and ammunition hoists. There are four of these hoists in total, one cartridge hoist and one shell hoist per gun.

Battery tours run on selected days each month throughout the summer.

View over the cliffs to the sea at St Anthony Head, Cornwall

Discover more at St Anthony Head

Find out how to get to St Anthony Head, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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