Slighting

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Corfe Castle was partially demolished (slighted) during the English Civil War so that its defences could not be reused.

Slighting is the deliberate destruction, partial or complete, of a fortification without opposition, to render it unusable as a fortress.[1][2]

Sometimes, such as during the Wars of Scottish Independence and the English Civil War, slighting is carried out on a systematic basis as part of a policy by one or both sides to deny the use of fortified places to their enemies.[3][4][5]

Middle Ages[edit]

In England during the Middle Ages, adulterine (unauthorised) castles, if captured by the king, would usually be slighted.[6] During the Wars of Scottish Independence, King Robert the Bruce adopted a strategy of slighting Scottish castles to prevent them being occupied by the English.[5][7] A strategy of slighting castles in the Levant was also adopted by the Mamluks in their wars with the Crusaders.

Treaty of Edinburgh 1560[edit]

Under the terms of The concessions of Francis and Mary to the nobility and the people of Scotland and the Treaty of Edinburgh in July 1560, various fortified places were designated for demolition to prevent their use by French and English forces.[8] These included the recent fortifications at Dunbar Castle, Leith and Eyemouth.[9][10][11] On the island of Inchkeith a token garrison of 60 French soldiers were allowed to remain for a time. Inchkeith and Dunbar were finally slighted in 1567.[12]

English Civil War[edit]

During the English Civil War many castles and fortified houses were slighted by the Parliamentarians to stop them being used by the Royalists.[3] Most of the destruction was in Wales, the Midlands, and Yorkshire e.g. Pontefract Castle. The coastal fortifications were spared by the Commonwealth, as they might have been useful for hindering a Royalist or foreign invasion.[4]

Burg Rheinfels[edit]

Situated on the left bank of the Rhine, Rheinfels Castle was started in 1245 by Diether V, Count of Katzenelnbogen. By the late 17th century it was a fortress complex. It was the only Rhineland fortress to hold out against the French in the War of the Palatine Succession (1688–97). During the French Revolutionary Wars, the left bank of the Rhine was annexed by the French Republic and incorporated into France as the department of Rhin-et-Moselle. Under the orders of the French Revolutionary government, Burg Rheinfels was slighted in 1797.[13]

Malta[edit]

In 1832, it was proposed that a number of coastal fortifications around Malta which had been built in the 17th and 18th centuries be demolished, so they would not provide cover to a disembarking enemy in case of an invasion. This proposal was not carried out,[14] although many of the batteries and redoubts were eventually demolished between the late 19th and 20th centuries to make way for modern military installations, roads or new buildings.[15]

Nineteenth century[edit]

In the 19th century many of the obsolete fortifications were slighted in order to provide more space in the area for growing cities. This process of eliminating urban fortifications is specifically referred to as defortification. The resulting slag bricks, clinker, boulders, etc. served as building material for construction. The slighting was carried out by the mechanical removal of walls and ramparts, the leveling of trenches and, if necessary, by blasting. Most of the time, the land on which the fortifications stood was used as parks and green spaces (promenades) or (ring) roads. The term "boulevard" is an Old French word meaning fortification.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hull 2008, p. 86.
  2. ^ Friar, Stephen (2003). The Sutton Companion to Castles, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 2003, p. 271. ISBN 978-0-7509-3994-2
  3. ^ a b Manganiello 2004, p. 498.
  4. ^ a b Lowry 2006, p. 29.
  5. ^ a b Perry & Blackburn 2000, p. 321.
  6. ^ Muir 1997, p. 173.
  7. ^ Traquar, Peter Freedom's Sword p. 159
  8. ^ Haynes, Samuel, ed. (1740). A Collection of State Papers left by William Cecil, 1542–1570. London. p. 354: letter summarising the finalised treaty of Edinburgh. 
  9. ^ Flintham 2011, Fortified Places: Edinburgh cites Cullen 1988, p. 1
  10. ^ Guthrie 1768, pp. 124, ff.
  11. ^ Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol.1 (1898), p.862, 452, 454
  12. ^ Pollard & Banks 2009, p. 112.
  13. ^ Castle 1999, p. 101.
  14. ^ Spiteri, Stephen C. (11 August 2010). "Madliena Tower – Malta's 'Martello' Tower". MilitaryArchitecture.com. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  15. ^ Spiteri, Stephen C. (28 August 2012). "Campaigning for Rihama Battery". MilitaryArchitecture.com. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]