SCHARP Blog

What's going on with Scotland's eroding coastal heritage

Eyemouth Fort ShoreDIG

The fort at Eyemouth changed the course of history, and not just that of Scotland, it played a significant role in the relationships between Scotland, England and France. Beginning life as an English fortification, it may have been the first Trace Italienne fort in Britain, reflecting the recent developments in warfare with the introduction of canons and gunpowder, which rendered stone walls very vulnerable. The huge earth banks you can still see today were far more effective at withstanding attack from canons, as they could absorb the impact of the cannon balls.

Aerial view of Eyemouth Fort taken by the UK Civil Aviation Patrol Lowland Unit

Aerial view of Eyemouth Fort taken by the UK Civil Aviation Patrol Lowland Unit

Built by Henry VIII as part of the rough wooing, the fort was used as a base from which the English armies harried Scottish settlements. The massive bank and diamond-shaped mound built at this time enclosed much of the promontory and survive to a significant height. The fort was abandoned following the treaty of Boulogne, but tensions between England and France continued, and the fort was soon re-occupied by the French as part of their alliance with Scotland. The defenses were strengthened and rebuilt, and survive as the outer bank across the promontory. This phase too was short-lived,  and the buildings were demolished, leaving only the substantial earthworks built by the two different armies as a tangible reminder of the fraught relationship between Scotland and England, and its impact on the landscape here, so close to the oft-disputed border.

A spy plan of Eyemouth Fort drawn in 1557

A spy plan of Eyemouth Fort drawn in 1557

Nowadays, the threat is from the sea, as wave action undermines the soft cliffs on which the fort was built, which bear the scars of a recent collapse on the south side of the promontory.

Although the fort is internationally significant, it is little understood or appreciated. The people of Eyemouth and the Community Council want  the ShoreDIG project to help raise awareness of the site by providing lots of opportunities for local residents to get involved in its investigation and interpretation. We’ll start by learning as much as we can about the fort  by doing detailed survey work. This will include taking aerial photographs from remotely-piloted Mikrocopters which take very detailed images which can be used to build a 3-dimensional model.  We’ll look below the ground with geophysics.

Mikrocopter in action at Eyemouth Fort piloted by Eddie Martin

Mikrocopter in action at Eyemouth Fort piloted by Eddie Martin

All the information we gather about the site will be used to develop interpretation to help local people and visitors understand the site and its importance, while we’ll also be building appreciation of the site through outreach events and developing effective ways of managing the site to improve visitor access and interpretation.

We’re going to be doing lots of work on the site, so keep an eye on this blog to follow what’s happening at Eyemouth fort!

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One comment on “Eyemouth Fort ShoreDIG

  1. Laurie Pettitt
    February 11, 2015

    The engineer for the Fort was Thomas Petit, Henry VIII’s Surveyor of Calais. He did work on the walls of Berwick and various fortifications across the Borders.
    Even thought the fort was important the Coldingham played a far greater part in the cross border skirmishes. The Peel Tower under (I think) Sir George Douglas took a hammering from both sides when the other had possession. In one exchange with Henry, Henry told (Hertford I think) not to defend the Coldingham tower at too much cost of men. In another exchange which make it possible that there was a previous fort there, Hertford told Henry that he would just sweep it off the cliff.
    My source is Britishhistoryonline.ac My link to Thomas Petit is spurious as it is also with Smith-Pettitt who invented the ship’s propellor!

    Laurie Pettitt. lilburnredbook@gmail.com

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