Heavy Anti-aircraft gunsite, 250m north east of New Farm Cottages
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SJ 33553 73253
Reasons for Designation
Although of comparatively recent date, 20th century military sites are
increasingly seen as historic survivals representing a defining episode in the
history of warfare and of the century in general; as such they merit careful
record and, in some cases, preservation. One of the more significant
developments in the evolution of warfare during this period was the emergence
of strategic bombing in World War II, and this significance was reflected by
the resources invested in defence, both in terms of personnel and the sites on
which they served. During the war, the number of people in Anti-aircraft
Command reached a peak of 274,900 men, additional to the women soldiers of the
ATS who served on gunsites from summer 1941, and the Home Guard who manned
many sites later in the war. A national survey of England's Anti-aircraft
provision, based on archive sources, has produced a detailed record of how
many sites there were, where they were and what they looked like. It is also
now known from a survey of aerial photographs how many of these survive.
Anti-aircraft gunsites divide into three main types: those for heavy guns
(HAA), light guns (LAA) and batteries for firing primitive unguided rockets
(so called ZAA sites). In addition to gunsites, decoy targets were employed to
deceive enemy bombers, while fighter command played a complementary and
significant role. Following the end of World War II, 192 HAA sites were
selected for post-war use as the Nucleus Force, which was finally closed in
The HAA sites contained big guns with the function of engaging high flying
strategic bombers, hence their location around the south and east coasts, and
close to large cities and industrial and military targets. Of all the
gunsites, these were the most substantially built. There were three main
types: those for static guns (mostly 4.5 and 3.7 inch); those for 3.7 inch
mobile guns; and sites accommodating 5.25 inch weapons. These were all
distinct in fabric, though they could all occupy the same position at
different dates, or simultaneously by accretion. As well as the four or eight
gun emplacements, with their holdfast mountings for the guns, components will
generally include operational buildings such as a command post, radar
structures including the radar platform, on-site magazines for storing reserve
ammunition, gun stores and generating huts, usually one of the standard Nissen
hut designs. Domestic sites were also a feature of HAA gunsites, with huts,
ablutions blocks, offices, stores and amenities drawn from a common pool of
approved structures. Sites were often also provided with structures for their
close defence; pillboxes are the most common survivals, though earthwork
emplacements were also present. The layout of HAA gunsites was distinctive,
but changed over time, for example to accommodate the introduction of radar
from December 1940, women soldiers from summer 1941, and eight gun layouts
from late 1942.
Nearly 1,000 gunsites were built during World War II, and less than 200 of
these have some remains surviving. However, at only around 60 sites are these
remains thought sufficient to provide an understanding of their original form
and function. This includes 30 of the 192 examples which continued in use
until 1955. Surviving examples are therefore sufficiently rare to suggest that
all 60 well preserved examples are of national importance.
The Heavy Anti-aircraft gunsite, 250m north east of New Farm Cottages is in very good condition with three of the concrete gun pits retaining wooden racking for shells, brackets for hinges to steel doors and, in one instance, the steel door of a store survives. Electrical fixtures and fittings survive in the eastern half of the site. Such surviving features are uncommon and so this site provides a good record of the purpose and function of the defensive gunsites in this area.
The monument includes the standing, earthwork and buried remains of the World
War II Heavy Anti-aircraft (HAA) gunsite known as Station H21,including four
gun pits and a command post and the ruined remains of some ancillary
buildings. It is located 250m north west of New Farm Cottages.
The gunsite was first mentioned in War Office records in July 1941. It was
manned by units of the regular Royal Artillery who operated four 4.5 inch guns
directed by GL MkII radar. It was not one of the 192 Heavy Anti-aircraft
gunsites to be retained as part of the post-war Nucleus Force after 1945.
The four gun emplacements are constructed of concrete and are arranged in a
shallow arc to the south of the command post and 20m apart. Each emplacement
consists of an octagonal gun pit 7.5m across surrounded by concrete walls and,
on two opposite sides, steel blast doors of which only the hinge brackets
survive. Inside four of the interior facets are concrete roofed boxes with
wooden racks to contain ammunition. This configuration was designed in 1938.
The walls of each pit survive up to the original height. To the north of the
gunpits is a partly sunken building of brick with a concrete roof above
ground. The northern side of this building is open to the sky, forming a
standing for a telescope, a predictor and for visual observation of incoming
aircraft. This appears to have been the command post. Certain aspects of the
building do not conform to the usual pattern for command posts elsewhere. The
building measures approximately 8m by 20m. The open central area has been
formed by excavating a space from a high bank constructed along the north side
of the site and there are no buildings on this northern side to complete the
surround for the interior. There are the buried and ruined remains of at least
two other concrete buildings to the west of the gunpits and one of these may
have housed the radar and other detection equipment. These buildings have
subsided into soft soil, possibly an infilled drainage channel below the
foundations, and so have collapsed. The housing and ancillary offices for the
battery were located outside this area, in what is now arable farmland to the
south of the gunsite, and are no longer traceable.
The site faces south and would have been aimed at enemy aircraft following the
north coast of Wales and the Manchester Ship Canal in order to bomb the
industrial centres around Manchester and the port of Liverpool.
The post and wire fences surrounding the site and the two telegraph poles with
stanchions located on the western side of the area are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing