World War II pillbox at Vale House, 120m north east of Glasses 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.
- West Somerset (District Authority)
- Old Cleeve
- National Park:
- National Grid Reference:
- ST 02792 38004
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the following two decades was superseded in early 1940 by design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.
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Riley, H, Wilson-North, R, The Field Archaeology of Exmoor, (2001), 168
ST 03 NW 58, National Monuments Record,
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