Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gunsite, 350m West of Butt Farm
Case study: Butt Farm, Walkington, near Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire (Yorkshire)
List entry number: 1019186
Background and history
This gunsite battery was part of a series defending Hull and other cities from Second World War (WWII, WW2) bombing. The East Riding was very much in the front line and bombing was constant here throughout the war. From its inception in 1941 this site was regularly used to train soldiers from quieter parts of the country.
It was staffed by a mixed sex Regiment which used women from the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). They operated the radar, communications systems and crucially provided technical support for identifying the elusive moving targets. Men operated the guns to bring down the German planes.
The site contains archaeological evidence of the presence of women. This includes a boiler house to provide heating for the semi-sunken command post. Additional brick plinths were inserted around the target finder equipment so all staff could reach and use them.
After the war, it was retained in use as part of a reduced network of military sites. It is thought to have been abandoned around 1950. It is one of only 30 scheduled sites to have experienced this dual war and post-war role.
Is it at risk?
Sixty odd years after its final abandonment, the heavy anti-aircraft gunsite was swamped by vegetation, trees and brambles. The site was intermittently farmed, then neglected for years. This has inevitably led to the poor and deteriorating condition of the monument.
Dumped materials block one of the gun posts and all the structures have condition problems. Severe water erosion of the London brick is particularly bad on the semi-sunken command post.
The site was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2015.
What's the current situation?
The farm has been recently taken on by an enthusiastic young tenant farmer. He has become very interested in the site and its history. He was so keen to see it emerge from its engulfing bramble patch that he enlisted local Scouts to help.
Under Historic England's guidance, St Cuthbert's Scout group worked really hard on the site to remove the vegetation. Like Sleeping Beauty, it has now emerged back into the daylight.
We are now in a position to assess the structural condition of the previously obscured surviving buildings.
We are negotiating a Management Agreement with the farmer. This will provide funding for a survey, further vegetation management, fencing and access gates, together with structural repairs.