Berry Head Signalling Mast Community Project
Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust in association with Brixham Heritage Museum
Commemorating 200 years since Napoleon’s arrival in Torbay
Project update – 12th May 2015
At Galmpton shipyard, Brixham trawler mast makers Mike Ticehurst, Bill Wakeham and their team completed, well ahead of schedule, the full-size replica signalling mast; crafted from timber felled at Churston Grove woodlands. This mast (in three sections: main mast, top mast & cross spar) was transported by haulier Paul Shepherd from Galmpton to the car park at Berry Head and then lifted over the fence by the truck’s crane onto the grass area below the southern Fort. Two sturdy members of the mast team (Bill and Mike) each carried the top mast and cross spar up to the fort. The heavier main mast section required some ingenuity – after some discussion, TCCT Berry Head Countryside Ranger Noel Hughes solved the situation by positioning the mast’s base on the open back of the TCCT truck and had the end of the mast supported by several sturdy TCCT staff & volunteer rangers following closely on foot behind. All proceeded as planned and the main mast was safely (without any injuries to rangers or damage to the truck!) brought into the southern Fort where the other sections (topmast & cross spar) could then be fixed into place. Further ingenuity was called for when raising the completed signalling mast into position at the former site of the old look out mast (that was removed from Berry Head in 2013).
With the signalling mast in its final, secure position, the topmast red flag was raised and two black balls hoisted in vertical alignment: this flag-and-ball combination would have been Berry Head signalling station’s unique recognition signal in the Napoleonic period.
Acknowledgements: Brixham Heritage Museum’s Curator, Dr Philip L. Armitage, wishes to thank all of those involved in crafting, transporting and erecting the signalling mast. Thanks also go to Bob Higginson of the Brixham Steam Packet Company who kindly donated the red flag and Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver for supporting the project from the Mayor’s Fund.
Demonstrations of how the signalling mast functioned will be held on Sunday May 24th when there will be a Napoleonic Boot Camp at Berry Head organised by Brixham Heritage Museum in association with the 32nd (Cornish) Regiment re-enactors and Guardhouse Cafe. For details see Events List on this website.
Other demonstrations of the signalling system are planned to commemorate the arrival of Napoleon in the bay 24th July 1815, after his defeat at Waterloo, when he was being transported on board HMS Bellerophon to exile on Saint Helena.