CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Plymouth’s Royal Citadel welcomes you to take a look around

PUBLISHED: 12:33 06 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:33 06 February 2015

Plymouth Citadel -

Plymouth Citadel -

Archant

Despite its forbidding appearance CHRISSY HARRIS discovers Plymouth’s Royal Citadel is welcoming visitors

Plymouth Citadel -Plymouth Citadel -

It was built nearly 350 years ago to keep an eye on the rebellious rabble in the town below.

Today, the Royal Citadel is a slightly more welcoming place for the people of Plymouth – if only they would take the time have a look around.

This 17th century building is a fascinating part of Plymouth’s heritage and occupies around 19 acres of the city’s famous Hoe.

And yet, many passers-by (including me) do just that – we pass by and hardly notice the astonishing fortress looming overhead.

The Citadel’s current occupiers are 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, who have been enjoying some of the best views in Plymouth since 1958.

Their Commanding Officer, Lt Col Jon Cresswell says he feels hugely privileged to be the latest ‘king of the castle’ and wants locals and visitors (no dirty rascals, of course) to explore the history of this building.

“I love this place,” he says. “I just love it. It’s absolutely unique and it’s something I’m very keen to share with Plymouth and Devon.

“This is a fortress in the middle of a city – there aren’t many like this around. In the sunshine, this place is just incredible.”

Plymouth Citadel -Plymouth Citadel -

English Heritage runs regular tours of the Citadel in the summer to allow visitors to explore behind the walls.

Many local army cadets and other youth groups are given the chance to visit and make use of the facilities, including the climbing wall, gym and electronic firing range.

Foreign and local dignitaries also regularly pass through the gates to be greeted with gun salutes and other ceremonial displays.

These visits are something Lt Col Cresswell and his colleagues are keen to encourage - within the realms of possibility, of course.

This is, after all, still a working fortress, with helicopters landing at regular intervals and a group of men and women on stand-by, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.

Lt Col Cresswell is realistic about how much of his workplace he can share with the community (“we’re not running Disneyland here”) but he wants people to discover more about the history on their doorstep.

“Our primary role is our operational role,” he says. “But there are little things we can do.

“We’ve got a story to tell here,” he says, with an animated enthusiasm that must work well in front of his troops. “We’ve got this truly fantastic structure that people can’t see into and yet we want them to see in. It might be that it’s through tours or through the pages of Devon Life.

Plymouth Citadel -Plymouth Citadel -

“We want to tell people that this is part of Plymouth’s quite extraordinary heritage.”

Lt Col Cresswell and his troops make regular trips into the city centre to meet and greet the public and fundraise for army charities.

He says the visits often make it clear that many locals are guilty of ignoring the landmarks on their doorstep.

“I’m the same, in a way. When you live and work somewhere, you don’t do it, do you?” says the married father-of-two, who lives in Plymouth.

“We go down into town in uniform and people tell us: ‘It’s good to see you boys out’ and ‘Where are you based, then?’.

“We tell them we’re in the Citadel and it’s: ‘Where’s that, then?’.

“We’ve got this magnificent building here and I’m keen for people to understand its history.”

Throughout our conversation, Lt Col Cresswell drops in many pearls from the Citadel’s rich past – this is a man who has clearly done his homework since arriving as Commanding Officer in May.

Plymouth Citadel - LtoR Corporal Katy Jones & lieutenant Ally Robinson (29 Commando)Plymouth Citadel - LtoR Corporal Katy Jones & lieutenant Ally Robinson (29 Commando)

It was built on the orders of King Charles II as a defence against Dutch invasion but also to keep watch on a recently rebellious town, which had staunchly supported Cromwell and the Parliamentarian cause during the Civil War.

Famous visitors have included Lord Nelson and His Grace, the Duke of Wellington.

The Citadel cost a fortune to build at great cost to the public purse and didn’t really need to be the size it was.

But it kept the town in order and the dockyard protected from enemy attack.

Whatever his motivations, King Charles II certainly chose a top spot.

The Citadel commands some of the most stunning views in Plymouth, overlooking the breakwater and beyond. You’d have certainly seen the bad guys coming.

Today, however, you’re more likely to spot the Brittany ferry arriving and people paddleboarding by.

“It’s a great place to be,” says Lt Col Cresswell. “I find looking at the sea hugely therapeutic, hugely interesting.

“It reminds you that there’s stuff out there that is much bigger than you. It means you don’t take yourself too seriously.”

To find out more about tours of the Citadel, see english-heritage.org.uk

The Royal Citadel – a short history:

The Citadel was built on the orders of King Charles II as a defence against a threatened Dutch invasion.

Keen to safeguard his own interests, Charles II knew his fortress would also serve to intimidate rebellious locals who had supported the Parliamentarian cause during the Civil War.

Some of its guns pointed at the town rather than out to sea.

Work began in 1665 but it was not until 18 July, 1666 that the foundation stone was laid by John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath. This stone, inscribed ‘Jo Earle of Bathe 1666’, is still in the wall facing the Hoe.

The building was built to the design of Dutch military engineer Sir Bernard De Gomme.

The Citadel encompasses the site of the earlier fort that had been built in the time of Sir Francis Drake.

Most of the stone used to build the Citadel was taken from a quarry at the opposite end of The Hoe - an area now known as West Hoe Park.

Some of the 113 guns positioned in the building have a range of about two miles – the distance to Plymouth’s Breakwater.

Who are 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery?

They are a specialist Army unit that operates in support of Plymouth-based Royal Marine commandos.

The Regiment forms part of 3 Commando Brigade, a light amphibious infantry brigade that specialises in mountain and cold weather warfare.

It is equally at home in the extreme temperatures of the desert or jungle.

29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery currently boasts a total of 467 soldiers – spread across sites in Plymouth, Poole, and Scotland.

On operations, these soldiers are in charge of the firepower (guns, attack helicopters, fast jets, mortars) and are highly trained.

Lt Col Cresswell says: “We fight our battles with maps and radios. When stuff goes wrong, it could be identified by the youngest 18-year-old who has just come out of training.

“I need him to have the confidence to immediately press the radio channel and shout: Stop! Stop! Stop! He’s not stopping a couple of riflemen in a bush over there – he’s about to stop the fireplan for the entire brigade.”

To find out more, see army.mod.uk

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Tue, 16:33

With breathtaking beaches, rolling countryside, stately homes and unique villages, it’s no wonder high-profile film productions flock to Devon - how well do you know the movies that have set up camp here however?

Read more
Tue, 15:17

Whether it’s on our beautiful beaches, in our magnificent moors or within our stunning stately homes, film productions are constantly setting up in Devon. Here are 16 that you might not know used the county as a filming location

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

From angry spirits to headless horses and ghoulish monks, Devon has more than a few supernatural stories to get your skin crawling. We have picked 11 haunted places in the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October is the perfect time to discover the joys of Exmoor. Jennette Baxter of Visit Exmoor suggests five great ways to enjoy autumn on the moor

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Away from the hustle of places like Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, North Devon is peppered with tiny coves, empty beaches and wooded walks leading to secluded bays that feel a million miles away from the tourist trail. BECKY DICKINSON reveals her pick of the best kept secrets on the North Devon coast

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

As part of her regular series where she visits Devon’s best places for 24 hours, Lydia Tewkesbury has this time been to Sidmouth

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ranging from rocky and windy walkways along the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches on the picturesque coastline, the district of North Devon is one of the prettiest coastal areas in the South West of England. In no particular order, here are 10 of the prettiest villages in the district of North Devon

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In Devon’s towns and cities there’s an awful lot you can do in just 24 hours. For her regular feature, Lydia Tewkesbury travels to see what you can do in a day in Kingsbridge

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search