Fort Bovisand is the lower building on the hill between Bovisand beach and the entrance to the Plymouth Sound. It consists of 23 gun rooms, called casemates, along with many underground corridors and magazines for storing arms, ammunition and explosives. It was built from 1861 to 1869 from Dartmoor granite and cost £58,000. It is said to be the best presented casemated battery of the 1859 Commission in the country and was continually occupied up until 1956.
The fort was originally armed with 25-ton rifled muzzle-loading (RML) guns. They were forged in Woolwich Arsenal, brought down by sea and manhandled from the harbour into the casemates. The guns fired through openings, or embrasures, in the one metre thick iron shields set in the archways of the casemates. The guns were heavy and cumbersome and had a slow rate of fire. The loading and firing drill took four minutes – hence the need for 23 guns to provide a continuous barrage of fire.
150-200 artillery men were stationed at the Fort. Each of the 23 guns had a detachment of seven men plus a Gun Captain to operate it. The eight men slept in the casemate and the repetitive daily regime of drills and maintenance was strict and disciplined. When Fort Bovisand was completed, Staddon Point Battery was no longer needed as a main gun battery and was used instead as additional living quarters.
(1873 sketch showing how the guns were transported from Woolwich & Inside a casemates, showing the thick shield on the front and the gun embrasure)