Bank Holiday Event at Berry Head to Celebrate Napoleonic Mast

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Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust in conjunction with Brixham Heritage Museum are celebrating the culmination of an important historical project at Berry Head National Nature Reserve on Sunday 24th May between 10am and 2pm.

The project has seen many different people come together, including master craftsmen, volunteers and Trust rangers. As a part of the 2015 celebrations of the battle of Waterloo, the installation of a replica Napoleonic-era naval signalling mast has taken place within the South Fort at Berry Head and members of the public are invited to come and see the mast and take part in activities and events, including a free family orientated bootcamp.

The project has used traditional methods and local craftsmen to build a replica Napoleonic signal mast, replaced the mast that was removed in 2013. Even the wood for the mast was sourced from larch trees in The Grove woodlands at Churston.

The transportation of the mast took the project to new levels, with the felled tree being transported from the woods by traditional horse logging. This was done under the guidance of local experts Dan and John Fisher from Noriker Horse Logging. The wood was then floated and towed by Nigel Lihou and his boat ‘Optimist’ from Churston Cove to Galmpton, where Brixham trawler mast makers Mike Ticehurst, Bill Wakeham and their team carved the wood into the replica Napoleonic mast.

Now complete and in its new home, the impressive mast stands at 36 feet tall, with a base diameter of 10 inches, narrowing to 6 inches at the top and can be seen for miles around.

Phillip Armitage of Brixham Heritage Museum said ‘In 1794 a chain of signalling stations was established by the Admiralty along the Channel Coast from Land’s End to Poole Harbour, which was later extended along the east coast as far as Edinburgh.  Berry Head station was manned by a half-pay Naval Lieutenant, a midshipman and two able seamen who were tasked with observing and reporting on movements of any enemy warships or merchant vessels off the coast. Messages were communicated from the Berry Head station to the neighbouring stations at Coleton or Dawlish Head by means of combinations of coloured flags or pennants and four black signal balls displayed at the signalling mast.’

After the summer, the signal mast will be converted back into a replica of the Victorian masts that were used for coastguard watches. Most of these masts are now redundant skeletons, scattered along the British coastline, totems to the rich history of naval tradition in Britain.

It is with vast thanks to the generous donations of time, resources and skills from the following; Mike Ticehurst, Bill Wakeham, David Chopping, John Marshall,  John Wilkinson, John Smith on the mast shaping team,  horse loggers Dan and John Fisher and Dr Phillip Armitage. Also thanks to Brixham Harbour Office , Ben Morris and staff at Torbay Boat Construction Yard and Galmpton Kiln.

To find out more information about the celebration event, please contact Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust Ranger Noel Hughes at noel@countryside-trust.org.uk. Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust and Brixham Heritage Museum are part of the English Riviera Global Geopark which promotes the geological heritage of Torbay.

(Author)

Team account for We Are South Devon.