Pickett-Hamilton fort 600m south east of Limekiln Farm

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020869

Date first listed: 06-Dec-2002

Map

Ordnance survey map of Pickett-Hamilton fort 600m south east of Limekiln Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Warrington (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Burtonwood and Westbrook

National Grid Reference: SJ 56954 90861

Summary

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

Reasons for Designation

The importance of defending airfields against attack was realised before the outbreak of World War II and a strategy evolved as the war went on. Initially based on the principle of defence against air attack, anti-aircraft guns, air raid shelters and dispersed layouts, with fighter or `blast' pens to protect dispersed aircraft, are characteristics of this early phase. With time, however, the capture of the airfield became a more significant threat, and it was in this phase that the majority of surviving defence structures were constructed, mostly in the form of pillboxes and other types of machine gun post. The scale of airfield defence depended on the likelihood of attack, with those airfields in south or east England, and those close to navigable rivers, ports and dockyards being more heavily defended. But the types of structure used were fairly standard. For defence against air attack there were anti-aircraft gun positions, either small machine gun posts or more substantial towers for Bofors guns; air raid shelters were common, with many examples on each airfield; and for aircraft, widely dispersed to reduce the potential effects of attack, fighter pens were provided. These were groups together, usually in threes, and took the form of `E' shaped earthworks with shelter for ground crew. Night fighter stations also had sleep shelters where the crew could rest. For defence against capture, pillboxes were provided. These fortified gun positions took many forms, from standard ministry designs used throughout Britain and in all contexts, to designs specifically for airfield defence. Three Pickett-Hamilton forts were issued to many airfields and located on the flying field itself. Normally level with the ground, these forts were occupied by two persons who entered through the roof before raising the structure by a pneumatic mechanism to bring fire on the invading force. Other types of gun position include the Seagull trench, a complex linear defensive position, and rounded `Mushroom' pillboxes, while fighter pens were often protected by defended walls. Finally, airfield defence was co-ordinated from a Battle Headquarters, a heavily built structure of which under and above ground examples are known. Defences survive on a number of airfields, though few in anything like the original form or configuration, or with their Battle Headquarters. Examples are considered to be of particular importance where the defence provision is near complete, or where a portion of the airfield represents the nature of airfield defence that existed more widely across the site. Surviving structures will often be given coherence and context by surviving lengths of perimeter track and the concrete dispersal pads. In addition, some types of defence structure are rare survivals nationally, and all examples of Pickett- Hamilton forts, fighter pens and their associated sleep shelters, gun positions and Battle Headquarters closely associated with defence structures, are of national importance.

The Pickett-Hamilton fort 600m south east of Limekiln Farm is a rare surviving example of an ingeneous pillbox designed for airfield defence. It is of particular importance for its innovative design and mechanical simplicity. This example will provide a feature in the landscape which preserves the memory of an historic airfield where the other features of the original RAF station have not survived.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the concrete shell and underground remains of a Pickett-Hamilton fort on the site of a former United States Airforce (USAAF) base at Burtonwood. The fort was designed to form a small part of the defenses for the airfield during World War II and was one of three constructed. It was built after the commissioning of the site for the Royal Air Force in 1940, and completed in 1941. By 1944 the airfield had been handed over for the use of the USAAF.

Above ground, all that is visible is the circular concrete slab which forms the lid of the retracted fort. A small manhole, originally covered by a steel hatch, is set into this lid; this aperture has been protected by a concrete and steel manhole cover from a drain. The interior has been pumped free of water and an internal inspection demonstrates that the original pump mechanism for the hydraulic jacks is intact, as are all interior fittings, albeit severely rusted. The cover slab and its setting is 4m in diameter. Adjacent are three rectangular manhole covers which have been laid on the ground and dumped for scrap. These are not included in the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 33885

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume X Airfield Defences in WWII, (2000)

End of official listing