World War II pillbox at Vale House, 120m north east of Glasses Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020726

Date first listed: 24-Jul-2002


Ordnance survey map of World War II pillbox at Vale House, 120m north east of Glasses Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: West Somerset (District Authority)

Parish: Old Cleeve

National Park: EXMOOR

National Grid Reference: ST 02792 38004


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

From the summer of 1940 England's defences were strengthened against the threat of German invasion. A large number and diversity of defensive structures were built across the whole country, from road and rail blocks to underground `hides', from earthwork gun emplacements to barbed wire entanglements, anti-tank ditches and pillboxes. The most substantial of these were the pillboxes, small reinforced concrete or brick buildings of a diversity of shapes and forms, designed to house either infantry, anti-tank guns or field artillery. The full range of defensive structures was generally complementary, however, and a variety of structures were therefore built together, either at vulnerable or strategically important nodal points, along the coast, on the communications network, around vital installations such as airfields, or arranged in linear defensive systems called Stop Lines that were intended to obstruct the enemy's advance. Pillboxes had first appeared widely as a defensive element in the relatively static trench warfare of World War I. Gradual development over the following two decades was superseded in early 1940 by design principles born from the practical experience of British troops in France, giving a shell-proof concrete construction whose loopholes or embrasures in each facet gave all round cover. Some World War I examples survive in eastern and southern England, but pillbox construction mainly dates from late May 1940 as part of the rapid programme of anti-invasion defences initiated after the fall of France. By October 1940 over 14,000 shuttered concrete pillboxes had been built, supplemented by large numbers in other construction techniques and a small number of commercially-produced pillbox designs. Various forms of camouflaged facing were employed and some were hidden within existing structures. By late 1940, however, the tactical concepts underlying the use of pillboxes, especially their deployment to provide linear defensive lines, were being criticised as too inflexible, costly and impractical as an effective defensive system. Increasing reliance was being placed on the digging of fieldworks around vulnerable points and on the use of mobile troop units. This shift of policy culminated in 1941 in an order requiring no more pillboxes to be built, by which time some 20,000 pillboxes had existed in England. About 5500 survive, some 800 in good condition.

The pillbox, which is prominently located at the entrance to Vale House, is of unusual design. It is one of only two pillboxes built inland on Exmoor, although Porlock Bay less than 20km to the north west was defended by a network of pillboxes, many of which still survive. The monument illustrates the measures taken to fend off the threat of German land invasion from the south west in the early years of World War II.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a World War II infantry pillbox in the garden of Vale House, situated in a prominent position in an angle formed by the road from the south west side of Roadwater and the top of the driveway to the house. The pillbox forms part of the anti-invasion defensive system established over much of the country between June and October 1940 to counter the threat of German invasion. The building has an irregular five-sided plan specifically designed to fit into its confined space and it was originally disguised as a timber-roofed garden building. It is constructed of breeze blocks with brick shuttering and has a concrete roof which originally supported a pitched shingle construction. The exterior dimensions of each of the five faces varies from between 2.1m to 3.6m across. An open doorway is set into the north west face and is flanked to the right by a small rectangular embrasure or firing-loop 0.35m wide and 0.3m high. Uniform horizontal embrasures 0.6m wide and 0.2m high are located in each of the other four faces, and all retain their original cast iron shutters. The structure is 2.6m high from ground level to the flat roof. The interior of the pillbox is 1.9m high from floor to ceiling and retains its original concrete shelving fixed in front of the embrasures to accommodate a machine-gun or anti-tank gun. The pillbox is strategically positioned between the River Washford, which flows from north east to south west on its north side, and the south western approach road to Roadwater (and ultimately to the north Somerset coast) where a road barrier was manned by the Home Guard.

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: 35320

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Riley, H, Wilson-North, R, The Field Archaeology of Exmoor, (2001), 168
ST 03 NW 58, National Monuments Record,

End of official listing