Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 30, 2017
Webpage updated: November 11, 2022




The Royal Citadel is situated overlooking Plymouth Sound and the Cattewater, with its entrance being in Hoe Road.  The National Grid reference of the entrance is SX 4804 5395.

The entrance gateway to the Royal Citadel, Plymouth.
From a postcard.

It was as a result of the Dutch Wars of 1664-67 that King Charles II realized the importance of Plymouth as a channel port and this led to the decision to build the Royal Citadel.  It incorporated the old fort built in the time of Sir Francis Drake.  Like many fortresses over the centuries it was built to impress the local population as well as the enemy.


The entrance gateway to the Royal Citadel, Plymouth.
From a postcard.

Work began in March 1665 and proceeded apace under the direction of the Chief Engineer, Sir Bernard de Gomme and the resident Captain Philip Lanyon.  It included a small harbour, now the site of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, where small ships could be berthed arm and provision the Citadel under cover of the guns of the lower fort.  The foundation stone was laid on July 18th 1666 by Lord Bath.  The Citadel is built of local limestone.

The Royal Garrison Artillery Guard tunrs out at the Royal Citadel on Plymouth Hoe.

The Royal Garrison Artillery Guard turns out at the Royal Citadel on Plymouth Hoe.
From a postcard.

The main gateway in Hoe Road was designed by Sir Thomas Fitz (or Fitch) and has no equal in the South West.  At the top, in the pediment, is the Royal Coat of Arms supported by a lion and a unicorn, each holding a shield displaying the cross of Saint George.  Below that is the date 1670 flanking tablet bearing the inscription ~ Carolus secundus dei gratia magnae brittaniae franciae et hiberniae rex ~

Below the tablet is a niche which was intended to hold a life-size statue of King Charles II but now holds three cannon balls instead.   Over the top of the archway itself is the coat of arms of Earl; Bath along with the Grenville motto of ~ Futurum invisibile ~.  The whole gateway is built of Portland stone.  It was formerly approached by a drawbridge but this was removed in 1888 when the moat was filled to make some attractive gardens.  The moat, incidentally, never held water.

When William of Orange landed at Brixham in November 1688, the Royal Citadel was the first fortress in England to declare their support for him.

Visitors will note that the gun emplacements point out over the Town as well as out to sea.  It is thought that this was to keep the Town in order as it had supported Parliament during the English Civil War instead of King Charles's father.

Within the Royal Citadel is the Garrison Church of Saint Katherine the Virgin-upon-the Hoe.

The Royal Citadel was the headquarters for the Royal Garrison Artillery between its formation on June 1st 1899 and its disbandonment on December 31st 1956.