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Coastal Battery Torry Point

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Torry Point Battery, 2001
Torry Point Battery
© Colin Smith

Torry Point Battery lies east of Torry, an area on the south bank of the River Dee, and to the east of the city of Aberdeen.

History

Inside the battery, 2007
Inside the battery
© Stanley Howe

Built to defend the city of Aberdeen and its harbour, the site dates back to at least the 1490s, with the blockhouse built at that time serving as the town's armoury, and a place of execution for pirates. A replacement was constructed on the beach during the 1780s, but suffered problems which quickly resulted in disputes over responsibility when it required maintenance. It was 1858 before agreement was reached between the city council and the Board of Ordnance regarding the provision of new batteries at Torry Point and on the beach, prompted by the persistent fear of invasion by by the French, led by Napoleon III.

Torry Point Battery was built between 1859 and 1861, and manned by volunteers of the 1st Aberdeenshire Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers), formed October 24, 1860. The battery was initially armed with nine heavy guns: six 68-pounders and three 10-inch shell guns. In 1861, two of the heaviest armaments then in production were delivered, two 200 pound Armstrong guns, which were described as being capable of dropping a ball from Torry to Newburgh, almost ten miles away.

In 1895, the battery was partly dismantled, with the guns and mountings being shipped to the ordnance stores at Leith, after which the battery was use for training volunteers.

From 1904 to 1906, the battery was rebuilt, and two new 6-inch MK VII guns on CP MK II mountings were installed.

World War I

During World War I, the battery was permanently manned, when it was again used as a training facility, with the guns being left in place after the conflict ended. The battery was decommissioned by the War Office in 1935

Accommodation between the wars

In late 1934, the War Office had confirmed to the council that the battery was surplus to its requirements. The council needed temporary accommodation for families displaced from their sub-lets, basically thrown out to make way for more lucrative summer occupants - a situation which had existed since the end of World War I. These families had then been housed in the barracks as a temporary measure, which had simply never been ended. The battery provided a further 20 homes as emergency accommodation. The battery was cleared in 1938, after the area medical officer wrote to the council stating that the houses were no longer fit for human habitation, and the council declared that alternate accommodation was available. World War II was declared shortly thereafter, and the War Office retook possession of the battery.

World War II

As World War II began, anti-aircraft guns, searchlights, and concrete roofs were added to the battery to protect the guns from aerial attack by dive bombers, and from ground attack in the event of an enemy landing. Personnel at the battery worked closely with RAF squadrons based at Dyce, leading to the construction of a combined Army and Navy plotting room at the battery in 1943.

World War II was the only time the heavy guns mounted at the batter would open fire. On the night of June 3, 1941, two unidentified vessels were detected approaching Aberdeen harbour. At the time, only Admiralty ships were permitted to enter the harbour at night, and two shells were fired - the vessels were later determined to be friendly. Also in 1941, machine guns at the battery engaged a German aircraft which had dropped bombs off Kinnaird Head, and was later brought down in flames at St Cyrus, just north of Montrose. Kinnaird Head is home to the Lighthouse Museum, where visitors can still see bullet holes left in the glass of the Kinnaird Light, made during a German air raid during the war.

Postwar development

Battery interior, 2008
Battery interior
© Oliver Dixon

1945, and the ending of World War II, saw a second housing shortage in the area, and families squatted in the the battery. 20 August 20, 1946 the Evening Express reported some 20 families living in the battery, huts and camps around it - by the next day the number had increased to 40, and there was no more room. Rather than move them, the local council formalised the arrangement, eventually (after delays arising with the military) creating nine single-room, eight two-room and two three-room houses at a cost then of £300, and the battery was used to provide accommodation until 1953.

As the battery was vacated, the guns were also removed, however they had remained in place until the Suez Crisis of 1956 had passed.

Partial demolition of the battery followed, then dereliction.

During the 1960s, there was a suggestion to develop the remains as a hotel, but this was never progressed.

During the 1970s, funding from the council and the Scottish Development Department was provided to renovate and reinstate the structure of the battery, and make it safe. A car park was added for visitors, and provision made for the many species of bird that had made the battery a migratory stop and nesting place.

In 2000, Torry Point Battery was scheduled by Scottish Ministers as an Ancient Monument.

Coastguard rocket house

Rocket house, 2007
Rocket house
© Stanley Howe

Across Greyhope Road, and a short way to the northwest, is a substantial shoreside shelter with a platform on the roof. This is unrelated to battery and has been identified as a rocket house, a Coastguard life-saving station from which lines would have been launched and carried by rocket to vessels in distress off the harbour.

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-

 

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Aerial views


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