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Kirkwall, Cromwell's Fort

Artillery Fortification (17th Century), Fortification (17th Century)

Site Name Kirkwall, Cromwell's Fort

Classification Artillery Fortification (17th Century), Fortification (17th Century)

Canmore ID 2475

Site Number HY41SE 5

NGR HY 4524 1158

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2024.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Kirkwall And St Ola
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY41SE 5 4524 1158.

(HY 4524 1158) Cromwell's Fort (NR)

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed.,(1903).

A small fort with ramparts of earth and two small irregular bastions to the sea, made by the order of Cromwell.

R Pococke 1887.

It is unlikely that anything remains above ground of this Cromwellian fort. The field-work on the edge of the little promontory W of the coastguard station seems to represent mainly the gun positions of a Volunteer Battery, with additions made during the late (1914-18) war. But, in preparing the ground for some recent cottages fronting the shore road several yards further E, the contractor found evidence of a trench, 6ft deep and provided with a fire-step. This trench ran apparently towards Weyland (HY 4550 1137).

RCAHMS 1946.

Recent housing development has completely obliterated the defensive-work described by RCAHMS.

Visited by OS (NKB) 5 April 1964.

Cromwell's fort is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 2 and a half-inch map (Orkney and Shetland (Orkney) 1882, sheet cviii) as comprising three batteries and a flagstaff, typical on plan of the mid to late 19th century volunteer gun platforms.

The Ordnance Survey Name Book (ONB) notes that 'very little of the original of this fort remains -when Cromwell's soldiers penetrated as far north as Orkney, they threw up a rude temporary fort on the spur of the [?] to the east of Kirkwall Harbour. It is now converted into a fort or battery for the use of the 1st Orkney Artillery Volunteers'.

Information from RCAHMS (PM) 31 July 2002

ONB 1882


Publication Account (1981)

Montrose's occupation of Orkney to a great degree led to the construction of two fortresses at Kirkwall by Cromwell in the 1650s. At least one of the forts was still being used in 1700. Wallace noted that 'at the north end of the town is a place built by the English in Oliver's time, ditched with breastwork, and some other fortifications on which they have some cannon planted for the defence of the Harbour' (1700, 79). Barry noted the same structure - 'rude vestiges of a temporary fort thrown up on the spur of the occasion by Oliver Cromwell' (1805, 23). On the opposite side of the bay from the burgh he observed that 'another of the same kind has evidently been marked out, in order that they might co-operate in either annoying or protecting the harbour' (Barry, 1805, 23). By Hossack's day the fort at the western side of the bay had become a quarry (1900, 414). On the eastern side of the bay nothing of the fort remains visible above ground. The fieldwork on the edge of the promontory west of the coastguard stations 'seems to represent mainly the gun positions of the late Volunteer Battery' with additions made during the First World War (RCAM, 1946, II, 163). Evidence was found of a trench some six feet (2m) deep with a fire step running down towards Weyland Farm, but all this defensive work has since been obliterated (RCAM, 1946, II, 163).

Information from ‘Historic Kirkwall: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1977).


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