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Royal Citadel, Plymouth

Aerial view of the Royal Citadel, with Plymouth Hoe in the background.
The Baroque main gate of the Royal Citadel. Note the date 1670 above the arch.
The Royal Citadel as seen from Mount Batten

The Royal Citadel in Plymouth, Devon, England, was built in the late 1660s to the design of Sir Bernard de Gomme. It is at the eastern end of Plymouth Hoe overlooking Plymouth Sound, and encompasses the site of the earlier fort that had been built in the time of Sir Francis Drake.


  • History 1
  • Garrison church 2
  • Royal Citadel in the media 3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5


During the Dutch Wars of 1664-67 King Charles II decided that it was necessary to realise the importance of Plymouth as a channel port. The original plan was to build a regular self-contained fort with five bastions, to the west of Drake's Fort, but this was revised to take in the earlier fort, resulting in the Citadel's irregular outline. Possibly due to Plymouth's support for the Parliamentarians in the Civil War its guns could also fire on the town. De Gomme faced some criticism over his unorthodox design: for instance when Samuel Pepys visited in 1683 he wrote that "De Gomme hath built very sillily".

Fisher's Nose Blockhouse, located on its south east corner, dates from 1490–1540 and was intended to protect the Cattewater. On the opposite bank to Fisher's Nose is the Queen Anne's Battery, dating from 1667.

Work began in March 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. Elements from the earlier Tudor fort were incorporated into the new work.[1] The Citadel is built of local limestone, while the English Baroque gateway, designed by Sir Thomas Fitz, is of Portland stone. The gateway was originally approached by a drawbridge over a dry moat, but these were removed with all the other outworks in the 1880s.

The Royal Citadel was the most important English defence for over 100 years, with 70 ft high walls, and was regularly strengthened over the years, particularly during the 1750s when it was equipped with 113 guns.

The Royal Citadel is still occupied by the military, being the base of 29 Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery. This specialist British Army unit provides artillery support to 3 Commando Brigade of the Royal Marines. Guided tours are sometimes available.[2]

Immediately to the east of the Citadel, and contemporary with it, a Royal Navy Victualling Yard was established to serve the fleet in Plymouth Sound and Sutton Pool. This closed with the establishment of the Royal William Victualling Yard in the 1830s, since when the area has been used as an extension to the military base (and accommodates vehicles too large to pass through the seventeenth-century gateway).[1]

Garrison church

The Royal Chapel of St Katherine-upon-the-Hoe was originally licensed for services in 1371. During the period 1666-1671, the original church was demolished and the present nave, chancel and sanctuary were rebuilt on the same site. The galleries and George V re-granted the title Royal Chapel in 1927 during a visit to the Royal Citadel.

Royal Citadel in the media

The 2011 BBC television series The Choir: Military Wives featured the Royal Citadel along with RMB Chivenor in Devon. The programme documented choirmaster Gareth Malone forming a choir of wives and partners of Royal Citadel personnel deployed on active service in the Afghanistan War. In forming a choir, Malone aimed to raise the women's morale and raise their profile in the public perception.[3] The song Wherever You Are was recorded by the Military Wives Choir and is to be released as a single in December 2011, with proceeds going to the Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help.[4]


  1. ^ a b "". 
  2. ^ "Devon - Coast - Point 3 - The Citadel".  
  3. ^ "The Choir III: Military Wives". Gareth Malone official website. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Military Wives: Wherever You Are". Gareth Malone official website. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 


  • Gill, Crispin (1993). Plymouth. A New History. Devon Books. pp. 165–166.  
  • Cherry, Bridget &  
  • Sellman, R. R. (1985). Aspects of Devon History (New ed.). Exeter: Devon Books. p. 40.  
  • Moseley, Brian (25 January 2011). "Plymouth, Royal Citadel". The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 

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