Two pillboxes at North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex

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1 Two pillboxes at North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex Building Recording by James Earley and Danielle Milbank Site Code NBWS07/135 (SU )

2 Two pillboxes at North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex Building Recording For Berkeley Homes and Persimmon Homes by James Earley and Danielle Milbank Thames Valley Archaeological Services Ltd Site Code: NBWS07/135 June 2008

3 Summary Site name: Two pillboxes at North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex Grid reference: SU Site activity: Building Recording Date and duration of project: January 2008 Project manager: Steve Ford Site code: NBWS 07/135 Summary of results: Two Second World War Pillboxes Location and reference of archive: The archive is presently held at Thames Valley Archaeological Services, Reading and will be deposited at Chichester Museum in due course. This report may be copied for bona fide research or planning purposes without the explicit permission of the copyright holder Report edited/checked by: Steve Ford Steve Preston i

4 Two pill boxes at North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex Building Recording by James Earley and Danielle Milbank Report 07/135 Introduction This report documents the results of building recording at North Bersted (SU ) (Fig. 1). The work was commissioned by Mr Phil Beale on behalf jointly of Berkeley Homes (Southern) Limited, Broadlands Business Park, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 4QP and Persimmon Homes South Coast, Persimmon House, 100 Wickham Road, Fareham, Hampshire PO16 7HT. Outline planning permission has been gained on appeal (APP/C3810/A/04/ ) from Arun District Council for residential development on the site, comprising 650 residential dwellings, with associated facilities, flood relief and road infrastructure. It was proposed that a building recording was to be carried out on two Second World War pillboxes that stand on the site within areas designated for recreational use (SU and SU )(Fig. 2). This report documents the results of the building recording. A third pill box stands just beyond the site boundary (SU ). Archaeological investigations on the site will be reported on separately. At the time of writing it was not clear if the pillboxes were to be preserved within the development. This is in accordance with the Department of the Environment s Planning Policy Guidance, Planning and the Historic Environment (PPG ), and the District Council s policies on historic buildings. The fieldwork was undertaken by David Platt, James Earley and Andrew Weale in January 2008 and the site code is NBWS 07/135. The archive is presently held at Thames Valley Archaeological Services, Reading and will be deposited at Chichester Museum and a copy sent to the National Monuments Record in due course. Location, topography and geology The site lies in North Bersted, on the northern margins of Bognor Regis, to the east of the A259 Chichester Road and north of Rowan Way (Fig. 1). The site comprises c. 60 ha. overall. The land is currently arable farmland, though not in use. The site lies on the coastal plain at approximately 4m above Ordnance Datum and the underlying geology is brickearth (BGS 1996). 1

5 Historical Background In May 1940 the Chiefs of Staff decided that should France fall, Britain would be threatened primarily from the air. If the Luftwaffe achieved air superiority, even briefly, paradrops and airborne landings would threaten to over-run the south coast. So long as the RAF still posed some sort of threat, however, serious beach (amphibious) landings were thought to be much less likely (as opposed to diversionary landings, which were thought probable). Land defences were therefore designed with this strategic balance in mind. A thin crust was to cover the probable landing beaches, while interior defensive lines ( stop lines ) which could be manned by the Home Guard, were to hamper enemy mobility. The fortifications themselves were designed by a branch of the directorate of Fortifications and Works at the War Office, designated F W 3 (Wills 1985). Plans were finalized by June 1940 and work on building began before the end of that month. Hundreds of pill boxes, tank traps, pimples, etc were built in just a matter of weeks; by November there were thousands along the south coast alone (Mace 1996). Interior lines were still being strengthened through the first half of 1941, but the invasion threat was greatly diminished by June 1941 and no more pill boxes were built after February The more general archaeological potential of the site was highlighted by a desk-based assessment and subsequent field evaluation (Jones and Dunkin 2000; Worrell 2005). In summary the site lies on the Sussex coastal plain, which is considered rich in archaeological deposits of many periods (Rudling 2003). This archaeological potential has been further demonstrated for the environs of the site with extensive prehistoric settlement and landscape features of Bronze Age and Roman date revealed by evaluation and subsequent fieldwork at a site a few kilometres to the north (Wallis 2005). The archaeology of the site will be reported separately. Methodology The building survey was to comprise a short desk-based historical study consulting historical maps and previous studies; photography of items of standing building fabric of historical interest or other items of historical interest, and summary analysis of the structures. This was to be carried out in accordance with guidelines set out by the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments for building recording RCHM(E) 1991; EH 2006). The aims of the project were; to record information on the plan, date, materials, function and condition of the interior and exterior of the buildings; to highlight constructional details and methods, and to highlight the most important architectural details and any other inscriptions and significant features. 2

6 The recording included a measured survey and photographic record on 35mm film in colour print, colour slide and monochrome (contact print) formats. A catalogue of the photographic record forms Appendix 1. Pillbox A is recorded in the Defence of Britain database (DoB 2006, record S , type FW3/24). Pillbox C is also mentioned in passing in the same record though not specifically recorded in the database; none of the sites are in Wills s (1985) selective gazetteer. Description The two pillboxes which are the subject of this building recording are referred to as Pillbox A (SU ) and Pillbox B (SU ). They, along with the third pill box C (SU ), are located in a line approximately 260m long and aligned WSW ENE, with approximately 200m between Pillbox A and B, and 60m between B and C. Pillbox A (Plates 1 4) Pillbox A is the easternmost of the three. It is located in the western corner of a field, with hedges on its northwest and south-west sides. The structure is a six-sided shape 2.35m high overall, externally 4.6m wide at the rear and 2.6m wide at the front (Fig. 3). A doorway (with no door) on the south-west wall opens to the single interior room. There are two embrasures 0.15m wide and 0.25m long, one either side of the doorway, at 1.40m from ground level. On four of the shorter side walls are loopholes with concrete surrounds with bevelled sides. These measure 1.30m wide and 0.40m high are set slightly off-centre and 1.35m from ground level. The loophole on the short front (north-east) side is also 1.30m wide and 0.40m high, in a central position, with bevelled concrete side (but at a less acute angle than the loopholes on the other four sides). The walls are 0.40m thick, with a 0.60m wide inside ledge to a height of 1.10m against the walls on all 6 sides. The roof is approximately 0.35m thick, and supported in the centre by a brick-built T-shaped ricochet deflector. This was a feature the originally planned interior, although the deflector was intended to be more Y- shaped: presumably the engineers adapted and modified as they went along. This has some damage to the south side. Below the level of the loopholes, the pillbox walls are comprised of an outer skin of red bricks over concrete core; at and above the loopholes, grey brick over a concrete core. The interior ledge was also a single layer of red bricks over concrete. The reason for the change of brick is unclear. It is possible the whole lower portion was replaced when the walls were strengthened (see below). The method of construction was not visible, as the concrete was only visible where the bricks had fallen away in two places. 3

7 Where the walls meet at non-right angles, the corner brickwork is left with a very slight hog s tooth overlap externally (even though this would allow an enemy to climb to the roof, a weakness that would not have been present in a pure concrete design). The roof is a single slab of concrete, and although there are no exposed areas, it is likely that it was made of reinforced concrete. No internal fixtures (shutters, hinges) are extant and no other features of note were observed. The dimensions and plan indicate that this pillbox is of type F W 3/24 (Wills 1985), and the thickness of the walls at 0.40m roughly equates to the 15 needed to protect against rifle and machine-gun fire (i.e. bullet- but not shell-proof). However, the inside ledges add another 0.60m, making the lower part of the walls 1m thick. The thickness of concrete sufficient to stop shells was generally held to be 3 6, or 1.07m, and it is known that many pillboxes built to a bullet-proof design such as this were reinforced in the summer of 1941 to withstand shells (Wills 1985). Although this reinforcement was more often carried out externally, it is possible that the ledge was added to the interior below loophole level at that time. As the loopholes are concrete with a visible join to the main structure, it is likely that these parts at least were pre-fabricated. It was not possible to ascertain whether the structure itself was made of prefabricated concrete panels, or shuttered and poured in situ. The two embrasures either side of the entrance did not appear to be intended as loopholes as the sides are straight rather than bevelled. This would give soldiers less protection than the bevelled loopholes but may have been intended as dual purpose, for observation as well as rifle cover. Pillbox B (Plates 5 8) This is located towards the north-west corner of the field on uneven ground. Its shape is rectangular, with the long axis aligned NE SW, and measures 6.50m by 2.50m (externally). It was sunk into the ground, with the floor at c.1m below the surrounding ground level. The doorway is on the south-east side. The extant door is probably not original. The south wall is 0.55m thick, while the east, west and north walls all measure 0.35m thick. The roof slopes from the north-west down to the south-east, but due to the sculpting of the landscape to take the emplacement, the roof top is 1.30m high above ground level at the north side and 2.10m high at the south. Pillbox B has 9 loopholes in total, each measuring 0.35m wide and 0.60m high. On the south-east side, adjacent to the doorway, there is one straight loophole, and a loophole of the same dimensions but at a

8 degree angle to the wall (Fig. 4). On the north-east wall is a single loophole. The north-west wall has six loopholes of the same dimensions, in two symmetrical groups of three. The furthest north of these has been sealed with bricks and cement. The remaining five are covered with bolted on steel plates, as was the loophole on the north-east side. The roof is composed of 26 long concrete slabs aligned NW SE, each 2.50m long, 0.25m wide and 0.10m high. This is covered with a layer (approximately 0.10m thick) of cement with a large proportion of gravel. The floor is a single concrete slab. The interior is a single space with no fittings or gun placements, and no central baffle. There is a concrete ledge across the east end of the interior, with the surface at 1.0m high (above floor level). Two ledges on the north and south sides of the pillbox (made of concrete and c. 0.20m thick) had fallen to the floor but were otherwise intact. Pillbox B does not appear as a type described by Wills (1985), though many variations of rectangular types were built in 1940 and Conclusion The two pillboxes differ considerably in plan, although the construction appears to be broadly similar. Although only pillbox A conforms to one of the numbered types (F W 3/24), both are fairly typical of the pillboxes constructed in 1940 and They were both of a combination of brick and concrete slab construction, with reinforced concrete likely to be used for the roofs. The majority of the concrete slabs used in southern England were made at Southern Railway s works at Ashford to speed up the process of building defences (Wills 1985, 22). Fieldworks of type F W 3/24 (also called a Hexagonal Bren and Rifle Emplacement )were designed to house five light machine guns (Bren guns) and two rifles, manned by eight or nine men in all. The Bren guns would be mounted one per short side and the two rifles on the entrance side. The lines of defence were concentrated on the south-east and eastern coast of Britain, with various stoplines around ports such as Southampton and Portsmouth. Together with pillbox C, these three pillboxes are positioned between the eastern end of the Portsmouth stop-line and the coastal defences at the sea front at Bognor. Pillbox A was orientated with the entrance at the south-west, and the area of coverage from the loopholes was around (from north-west to south-east). Pillbox B primarily covered the area to the north, though loopholes on the eastern and southern sides would have increased the width of the protected area. Pillbox 5

9 C s loopholes covered the south and the areas to the north-west and north-east (with the area directly to the north not covered), but also had some protection to the east and west. Taken together, this group of three pillboxes appears to be built primarily to defend from the inland side, to the north, north-east and east. This suggests that although the stop-line protecting Portsmouth from attack does not continue to Bognor Regis itself, these pillboxes were placed to ensure that even if defences on the south coast were bypassed, invading troops would be prevented from threatening the coast from the rear. It is possible that a paradrop or airborne landing at Tangmere was feared, and these defences will have been intended to prevent an early breakout from such a position. Overall, these pillboxes represent a small but important part of Britain s defences during the Second World War, though fortunately never used in combat. Defences such as these are an integral part of Britain s military history. References BGS, 1996, British Geological Survey, 1:50,000, Sheet 317/332, Solid and Drift Edition, Keyworth DoB, 2006, CBA Defence of Britain database: EH, 2006, Understanding Historic Buildings, a guide to good recording practice, English Heritage, Swindon Jones, G and Dunkin D, 2000, An archaeological desk-based assessment and walkover survey of land to the north of North Bersted, West Sussex, Archaeology South East, projects 1197 and 1281, Ditchling Mace, M F, 1996, Frontline Sussex: the defence lines of West Sussex , Chichester PPG15, 1994, Planning and the historic environment, Dept Environment Planning Policy Guidance 15, HMSO RCHM(E), 1991, Recording Historic Buildings: a descriptive specification, 3rd edn, Roy Comm Hist Monuments (England), London Rudling, D (ed), 2003, The archaeology of Sussex to AD2000, Brighton Wallis, S, 2005, Lidsey Landfill, Woodgate, West Sussex, an archaeological evaluation, Thames Valley Archaeological Services report 05/94, Reading Wills, H, 1985, Pillboxes - a study of UK defences 1940, Trowbridge Worrall, S, 2005, An archaeological evaluation of land at North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, Archaeology South East, project 2092, Ditchling 6

10 APPENDIX 1: Photographic Catalogue A. Colour prints No. Description 1 General view of pill box A exterior looking west 2 General view of pill box A exterior looking west 3 Close up of north west embrasure on pill box B 4 North west embrasures on pill box B 5 General view of pill box B exterior looking south west 6 General view of pill box B exterior looking south west 7 General view of pill box B exterior looking south east 8 North west embrasures of pill box B from interior, looking north east 9 Interior of pill box B looking north east 10 View of door on pill box B looking north west 11 View of doorway of pill box B looking north west 12 Exterior north west wall of pill box B looking south east 13 Exterior north east wall of pill box B looking south west 14 Exterior north west wall of pill box B looking south east 15 Exterior south east wall of pill box B looking north west 16 Exterior north facing walls of pill box A looking south 17 View of north eastern wall interior of pill box A 18 View of north eastern wall interior of pill box A 19 View of north eastern wall interior of pill box A 20 View of south eastern wall interior of pill box A 21 View of south eastern wall interior of pill box A 22 General view of pill box A exterior looking west 23 Exterior entrance to pill box A looking north west 24 Exterior north eastern wall of pill box A looking south west 25 Exterior eastern wall of pill box A looking west 26 Exterior south east wall of pill box A looking west 7

11 APPENDIX 1: Photographic Catalogue cont d. B. Colour Slides No. Description 1 General view of pill box A exterior looking west 2 General view of pill box A exterior looking west 3 General view of pill box A exterior looking west 4 Close up of north west embrasure on pill box B 5 North west embrasures on pill box B 6 General view of pill box B exterior looking south west 7 General view of pill box B exterior looking south east 8 General view of pill box B exterior looking south east 9 North west embrasures of pill box B from interior 10 Interior north east wall of pill box B 11 View of doorway of pill box B looking north west 12 View of doorway of pill box B looking north west 13 Exterior north west wall of pill box B looking south east 14 Exterior north east wall of pill box B looking south west 15 Exterior north west wall of pill box B looking south east 16 Exterior south west wall of pill box B looking north east 17 Exterior north facing walls of pill box A looking south 18 View of north eastern wall interior of pill box A 19 View of north eastern wall interior of pill box A 20 View of south eastern wall interior of pill box A 21 View of south eastern wall interior of pill box A 22 General view of pill box A exterior looking west 23 Exterior of entrance to pill box A looking north west 24 Exterior north eastern wall of pill box A looking south west 25 Exterior eastern wall of pill box A looking west 26 Exterior south east wall of pill box A looking west 8

12 APPENDIX 1: Photographic Catalogue cont d. C. Monochrome Images No. Description 1 Interior north west wall of pill box B looking west 2 Interior north west wall of pill box B looking north west 3 Interior north east end of pill box B looking north east 4 Exterior south west end of pill box B looking north east 5 Exterior view of doorway of pill box B looking north west 6 Exterior view of pill box B looking north west 7 Exterior view of embrasure on south east wall of pill box B looking north west 8 Exterior north east end of pill box B looking south west 9 Exterior north west wall of pill box B looking south east 10 Exterior north west wall of pill box B looking south east 11 Exterior entrance to pill box A looking north west 12 Exterior entrance to pill box A looking north west 13 Exterior pill box A looking north 14 Exterior pill box A looking north 15 Exterior pill box A looking south west 16 Exterior of pill box A looking west 17 Exterior of pill box A looking east 18 Interior of pill box A looking north east 19 Interior of pill box A looking north east 20 Interior of pill box A looking north east 21 Interior of pill box A looking east 22 Interior of pill box A looking north east 23 Interior of pill box A looking north west 24 Interior of pill box A looking north west 25 Interior of pill box A looking north west 26 Interior of pill box A looking south west 27 Interior of pill box A looking south west 28 Interior of pill box A looking south west 29 Interior of pill box A looking south west 9

13 SITE B A C SU North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, 2008 Building Recording NBWS07/135 Figure 1. Location of site within North Bersted and West Sussex. Reproduced from Ordnance Survey Pathfinder 1305 SU80/90 at 1: Ordnance Survey Licence

14 SU C B A North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, 2008 Building Recording NBWS07/135 Figure 2. Detailed location of pillboxes at North Bersted Reproduced from Ordnance Survey Siteplans at 1:2500. Ordnance Survey Licence

15 North Bersted, West Sussex, 2008 Ground plan N Ledge South-west elevation NW SE blocked up Side elevation 0 2.5m Figure 3. Plan and elevation of pillbox A NBWS07/135

16 North Bersted, West Sussex, 2008 Ground Plan N North west elevation SW NE SE NW North east elevation bricked up ground level ground level South east elevation SW NE ground level 0 2.5m Figure 4. Plan and elevation of pillbox B NBWS07/135

17 Plate 1. Pillbox A looking west. Plate 2. Pillbox A looking north west, horizontal scale 2m. NBWS07/135

18 Plate 3. Pillbox A interior, looking north east. Plate 4. Pillbox A interior looking south east. NBWS07/135

19 Plate 5. Pillbox B looking north. Plate 6. Pillbox B looking south west. NBWS07/135

20 Plate 7. Pillbox B entrance, looking west Plate 8. Pillbox B interior, looking south west. NBWS07/135

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