Observation post immediately north of Watty Bell's Cairn


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021036

Date first listed: 06-Oct-2003


Ordnance survey map of Observation post immediately north of Watty Bell's Cairn
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Dec-2018 at 23:35:44.


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

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Alwinton


National Grid Reference: NT 89195 01912


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 immediately north of Watty Bell's Cairn survives well in an unmodified state with a range of its component features intact. It was constructed as part of a wider group of four bunkers, which represent a major phase of artillery training between World War I and II. These are rare examples of structures of this kind with the only parallel being single examples at Salisbury Plain and Okehampton Training Areas. Hence they are an important survival of military training in England.


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


The monument includes the above and below ground remains of a bunker situated on the Otterburn Army Training Estate. The bunker, which served as an Observation Post known as OP 4, is now redundant and is one of a group of four on the Training Estate situated in two pairs. The other three bunkers and Watty Bell's Cairn are the subjects of separate schedulings. The bunker was intended to provide shelter during training for parties of 16 Forward Observation Officers guiding artillery fire into the impact area from mobile guns placed outside. The exact date of its construction is uncertain but a similar structure thought to provide a parallel for the Redesdale examples was constructed on the Okehampton Artillery Range in 1923/24.

The bunker, which faces north to command views over the Redesdale Impact Area, is visible as a rectangular blockhouse with projecting triangular wings encased in an earth and stone mound. The blockhouse is constructed of reinforced concrete and measures 23m east to west by 2.5m north to south and stands 2.75m high at the front. The walls, which are splinterproof, are 0.45m thick. Four recessed, rectangular embrasures 0.46m deep and 2.1m wide pierce its front face with a concrete lintel over, which projects 0.15m and is 0.5m high. The mound, which encases the blockhouse, is 30m long, 13.5m wide and about 1.1m high at the rear. The rear of the mound has been modified to provide a central ramped access to the roof 5m wide. A raised causeway projects for a further 5m beyond the rear of the mound.

Entry to the bunker is gained at the west end of the north face by a series of descending concrete steps which are protected on each side by a brick blast wall. The stairs give access to an offset passageway about 0.8m wide. Internally there are the remains of continuous raised wooden seating from where the operatives would sit to gain good vision. A drainage gully at floor level runs the length of the bunker immediately below the embrasures. It passes through the east wall of the bunker into a small drain within the offset passageway. A sign reinforcing the rules of engagement is situated on the rear wall of the bunker and a field telephone is attached to the west end of the north wall. Evidence of the wooden shuttering used in its construction are exhibited in the roof which also shows the grain of the wood clearly.

The military range warning sign within its wooden fenced enclosure at the north west corner of the monument is 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. 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: 32795

Legacy System: RSM


Francis, Paul , (2002)
Thomas, Roger J C , (2002)

End of official listing