Observation post 240m west of Ridlees Cairn


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021027

Date first listed: 06-Oct-2003


Ordnance survey map of Observation post 240m west of Ridlees Cairn
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Rochester


National Grid Reference: NT 84026 04257


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

Reasons for Designation

The Army Training Estate Otterburn (ATEO) is one of seven Army Field Training centres in the UK and is the largest single live firing area in the country. It has been operational since 1911 when the War Office acquired about 20,000 acres (8094ha) of land in Redesdale, Northumberland to create a seasonal tented camp and artillery range for the training of the newly formed Territorial Forces. The pattern of artillery firing from Easter to October fitted in with local sheep farming practices, and byelaws to control access during live firing periods were introduced in 1916. A period of intense training occurred during World War I to prepare both artillery and infantry units for war, including the construction of a sector of front line trenches at Silloans to practice infantry companies in the routines of defence, control of overhead artillery fire and relief in the line. After World War I the previous pattern of training was restored and continued to 1939, the only change being that from horse drawn to lorry drawn guns in 1938. During World War II, the training area doubled in size with the acquisition and subsequent purchase of a further 20,000 acres (8094ha) to create a second Artillery Range and camp at Otterburn. In 1959 the Ranges were renamed as an All Arms Training Area and five infantry fire and manoeuver areas at Quickeningcote, Wilkwood, Davyshiel, Sills and Heely Dodd were constructed under the Thurlow Plan. From 1969 Otterburn was designated as one of seven Principal Training Areas in the UK and became increasingly used for fire and manoeuver training by infantry units supported by artillery, mortars, guided missiles and air to ground attack aircraft. Developments since 1969 have included the construction of another battle shooting area at Ridleeshope and a moving target railway system at Stone in the Mire for engagement by wire guided anti-tank missiles.

The observation post 240m west of Ridlees Cairn survives well in an unmodified condition with a range of component features intact. It is one of a pair, which survives from an original group of four, and represents an early stage of range safety and security. The observation post illustrates an early form of blockhouse construction in England, which is considered to be influenced by German methods of construction learnt during World War I. The Redesdale examples are thought to be unparalleled in other training areas and hence they are an important survival from military training in England.


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


The monument includes the standing and buried remains of a concrete blockhouse situated on the Otterburn Army Training Estate. The blockhouse, which is now redundant, served as an observation post or Vedette and is one of a pair, which survives from an original group of four. The second observation post, the bunker and Ridlees Cairn are the subject of separate schedulings. The four observation posts were placed around the perimeter of the Redesdale Firing Range in order to prevent access to the range during live firing and also to provide security and good vision for range personnel. The exact date of their construction is unknown, but graffiti discovered on the walls within this blockhouse indicates their existence by at least the late 1920s. The most likely context for the construction of the observation posts is towards the end of or in the aftermath of World War I.

The blockhouse faces north west and is situated in a prominent position at the foot of a rocky knoll where it commands views across the Southhope Burn. Constructed of reinforced concrete, it is hexagonal in shape, although part of the longest south east wall is extended by 0.6m to accommodate an offset entrance passage. The blockhouse measures a maximum of 3.5m north to south by 4m east to west and it stands to a maximum height of 2m above ground level although its lower parts are buried beneath the level of the ground. It is flat-roofed and the concrete walls, which are shell proof, are 0.6m thick. Narrow and wide embrasures pierce three of the faces looking north west, west and south west, measuring 1m, 1.75m and 1m respectively. The more south westerly of the embrasures has been blocked with concrete although a small hole in one corner has been left unfilled. Above the embrasures there are the metal fixings for the provision of shutters and the remains of an electrical power supply survive on its north west face.

Access to the interior is gained by an opposing series of concrete steps at the east end of its northern side giving access to a doorway, which leads into an offset entrance passage. The doorway and stairs are protected to the east by a detached blast wall of concrete 1.8m long by 0.6m wide set 0.6m away from the entrance; this feature in particular is considered to have been heavily influenced by German methods of construction learnt during World War I.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 32786

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing