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The history of Brownstone Battery

A view of the rugged coastline at Froward Point, Devon
A view of the rugged coastline at Froward Point | © National Trust Images/David Noton

Brownstone Battery is one of the few remaining Second World War coastal defence positions. Hidden amongst the trees you'll come across a collection of fascinating buildings, including the gun and searchlight stations. Discover more about this surviving military history here.

Defending the coastline at Froward Point

With the threat of a German land invasion, gun batteries were placed strategically along the south coast. Brownstone Battery was built in 1940 to protect the Dart Estuary and nearby beaches Slapton and Blackpool Sands. It was manned by up to 300 soldiers, whose time was spent training and waiting for an invasion that never happened.

Gun position

The battery has two gun positions, each housing a six-inch gun taken from a First World War battleship. They had a range of over 14 miles, and 13 men were needed to operate each gun.

The shells containing high explosives were propelled from the guns by 'charges'. These were either cordite, a silk bag filled with smaller bags of explosive, or a cartridge: a brass cylinder filled with explosive.

Searchlight position

The reinforced concrete buildings housed two powerful searchlights which scanned the sea for enemy ships. Five men operated each searchlight, working on a shift system. Below the positions, the whole cliff area was covered in barbed wire.

Brownstone Battery after the war

The battery was decommissioned in the late 1950s and came into the care of the National Trust in 1981. By this time many of the original buildings had been removed or damaged, and over the years scrub spread over the site.

The area today

Our team of rangers work to keep the scrub at bay and create a good habitat for wildflowers, butterflies and rare birds such as cirl buntings. Sheep and pony grazing also help with this.

Meanwhile the large generator store has been colonised by lesser horseshoe bats.

Two children in the distance look out to the sea from the grounds of Coleton Fishacre, Devon

Discover more at Brownstone and Coleton Camp

Find out how to get to Brownstone and Coleton Camp, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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