Hameldon Hill World War II bombing decoy, 390m north of Heights Farm


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.

Burnley (District Authority)
Burnley (District Authority)
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Reasons for Designation

World War II saw the emergence of aerial bombardment as a decisive instrument of warfare, and to counter this threat, the United Kingdom maintained a flexible and diverse mechanism of air defence throughout the war. This included the early warning of approaching aircraft, through radar and visual detection, and the local defence of towns, cities and other vulnerable points using anti-aircraft gunnery and balloon barrages. But less conspicuously, many potential targets were shadowed by decoys - dummy structures, lighting displays and fires - designed to draw enemy bombs, by subterfuge, from the intended points of attack. Britain's decoy programme began in January 1940 and developed into a complex deception strategy, using four main methods: day and night dummy aerodromes (`K' and `Q' sites); diversionary fires (`QF' sites and `Starfish'); simulated urban lighting (`QL' sites); and dummy factories and buildings. In all, some 839 decoys are recorded for England in official records, built on 602 sites (some sites containing decoys of more than one type). This makes up the greater proportion of the c.1000 decoys recorded for the United Kingdom. The programme represented a large investment of time and resources. Apart from construction costs, several thousand men were employed in operating decoys, the fortunes of which were closely tied to the wartime targets they served. The decoys were often successful, drawing many attacks otherwise destined for towns, cities and aerodromes. They saved many lives. `QL' decoys were first operational in August 1941, and at its peak in December 1942, 209 were active. Most of these were Civil QLs, serving non military targets, the majority of which lay in the industrial Midlands and north, with other concentrations on the Tyne and Tees, and in the Bristol and Avonmouth areas; many were co-located with Starfish. Like Starfish, QLs were sited in clusters with a dozen or more decoys protecting the larger towns and cities. In operation the decoys would usually be illuminated in groups, representing the apparent extent of the target. In addition to Civil QLs, several specialised series of QL decoys were established: the A series comprising a handful of sites operated by the army, mostly protecting ordnance factories; Mobile QL sites which were created in the south east in May 1943 in response to a sudden upsurge in night bombing attacks; and the N series established for the protection of naval installations, and usually co-located with Naval QF sites. Also in this last group were the decoys comprising mobile equipment used to simulate activities around dummy embarkation points in the cover plan for Operation Overlord. QL sites relied upon diversity to retain realism, and no two were alike. Standard layouts were explicitly avoided and sophisticated light displays varied from 5 acres-30 acres (2ha-12ha) in area, the size depending on the target it was intended to replicate. Since most were co-located with Starfish, their night shelters and ancillary structures were often also used to serve the QL site. Isolated sites were, however, provided with shelters of their own. Some 230 decoys in England had a QL component; 142 of these were QL sites alone. Very little now survives of any of these decoys, most having been cleared after the war. All sites with significant surviving remains will be considered of national importance, as will those where a well-preserved night shelter has been identified.

Urban decoy fires were known as `SF', `Special Fires' and `Starfish', to distinguish them from other installations. Each town was protected by a cluster of these decoys, the most technically sophisticated of all the types, with each Starfish replicating the fire effects an enemy aircrew would expect to see when their target had been successfully set alight. The decoys included variation in fire type, duration of burning and speed of ignition. In a Permanent Starfish all fire types were used, set in discrete areas defined by firebreak trenches and controlled from a remote shelter. The whole array was linked by a series of metalled access roads. `Temporary Starfish' (all built in 1942 to counter the threat from the so-called Baedeker raids against historic towns and cities) only had fire baskets. In all, 228 decoys with a Starfish component are recorded in England, 37 of which were `Temporary Starfish', and the rest, `Permanent'. The Permanent sites were located mostly in central England, close to the urban and industrial targets they were intended to protect; Temporary sites, like the Baedeker sites they were protecting, were confined to southern and eastern England. As with the QL sites, very little now survives of any of these decoys and all sites with significant surviving remains will be considered of national importance, as will those where a well-preserved night shelter or control building has been identified.

Despite demolition of its control buildings, Hameldon Hill World War II bombing decoy survives well and is one of only three combined Starfish and QL simulated urban lighting sites in England which still remains largely in its completed form.


The monument includes the Hameldon Hill World War II bombing decoy located in enclosed land on the south-facing slope of Hameldon Hill 390m north of Heights Farm. It is one of five bombing decoys which were located on the east Lancashire moorlands around Accrington and it was constructed with the intention of replicating the fire effects an enemy night bombing raid would cause to industrial and urban targets in Accrington or its surrounding towns, thus encouraging further attack on the decoy as opposed to the real target. Although the precise lifespan of this decoy is unknown, official records indicate that construction began during early spring 1941 and that it was still operational during March 1942.

The bombing decoy includes the earthworks and buried remains of numerous rectangular and sub-rectangular firebreaks within which various types of fires were ignited, together with the remains of two associated control buildings and the access roads between these features. When first constructed Hameldon Hill bombing decoy was of a type known as a `Permanent Starfish', also known as `SF' or `PSF' decoys, within which assorted fire types such as coal, oil and paraffin were ignited from the control building and burned in discrete areas surrounded by firebreak trenches. During the autumn of 1941 the decoy was enhanced by the addition of simulated urban lighting, also known as `QL' decoys, and from then on became a joint QL/SF decoy. Official records indicate that the simulated urban lighting at Hameldon Hill took the form of railway marshalling yards, furnace glows and locomotive glows. An aerial photograph taken in 1946 clearly depicts four large sub-rectangular areas delineated by relatively freshly-cut firebreaks, each of which has been sub-divided into numerous compartments by additional firebreaks. Each of these compartments would have contained flammable material ready for igniting in advance of an enemy air attack. Also visible on the aerial photograph are over 20 small rectangular features considered to have been used as the simulated lighting replicating the marshalling yards. The site of the two control buildings is also visible at approximately SD80712830.

All the firebreaks are now grassed over although their earthworks can be clearly seen. The control buildings have been demolished although their original location is represented by building platforms. Scattered building material suggests that these control buildings were wholly or partly of drystone construction.

All modern field boundaries and gateposts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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:


In Dobinson,C. Fields of Deception, Hameldon Hill, (1946)


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

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