Coastal Artillery Battery on Blyth Links

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021401

Date first listed: 19-Jan-2006

Map

Ordnance survey map of Coastal Artillery Battery on Blyth Links
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Location

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

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Blyth

National Grid Reference: NZ 32030 79669, NZ 32075 79353

Summary

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

Reasons for Designation

The use of fixed artillery to protect the coast from hostile ships is one of the oldest practices in the history of England's defences. From the fifteenth until the second half of the twentieth century, coast artillery provided home security as well as protecting communications and trade networks across the British Empire. The term battery refers to any place where artillery is positioned to allow the guns to cover a particular area, such as a line of communication or the approaches to a vulnerable location. During this time batteries of fixed guns formed the first line of defence for the navy's anchorages and the larger commercial ports. Apart from a brief period early in World War II, when improvised batteries formed a continuous cordon around the coast, England's modern stock of coast artillery sites was dominated by positions originating before 1900. Coast artillery was finally stood-down in 1956. Defended Port Batteries were one of four classes of twentieth century batteries which can be identified - the other three are Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat Batteries (AMTB), Emergency Coastal Batteries (ECB), and Temporary and Mobile Artillery (TMA). As might be suggested by their name, Defended Port Batteries were established around major British commercial ports from the beginning of the 20th century until the abolition of coastal artillery in 1956. The Tyne was the northernmost permanently defended port in England and the artillery of the area was organised around Blyth, Tynemouth and Sunderland. All coastal batteries where sufficient physical remains survive to illustrate and provide information about the site's original form and function are considered to be of national importance. The World War I Battery at Blyth is well preserved and retains the full range of features characteristic of this type of coastal battery. As well as evidence for its original layout including the surrounding defensive enclosures, these include the gun emplacements, operational buildings and ancillary buildings. The survival of the associated searchlight emplacements enhances the importance of the monument. This battery has been identified as one of only 28 examples of its type in England which have survived in a complete state. The fact that it was reused during World War II, when some alterations were made and a new Battery Observation post was constructed, adds to the importance of the monument as a whole. Blyth Battery will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the two World Wars and it stands as a highly visible reminder of the measures taken to protect the coast of England during the 20th century.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the above and below ground remains of a World War I and World War II coastal artillery battery, situated among sand dunes in the South Beach area of Blyth. The monument is divided into two separate areas of protection. The bombardment of Hartlepool in December 1916 by the German High Seas Fleet killing 86 civilians and injuring 424 was a turning point for coastal defence. It prompted the development of a wider coastal defence plan, and construction of a battery at Blyth commenced in August 1916 by the Durham Fortress Engineers RE. The new battery's prime purpose was to prevent enemy landings and engage motor torpedo boats, but by the time of its completion in February 1918 it was also intended to protect the submarine depot ship Titania at Blyth. During World War I, the battery housed two six inch Quick Firing guns and two search lights. The guns were manned by four officers and 75 men of the Tynemouth Royal Garrison Artillery. Officially known as Blyth Battery, the battery was also known as Coulson Battery after the RE Officer responsible for its construction, and also as Link House Battery. The battery buildings are depicted on the third edition OS map for the area and are shown as two separate areas, each surrounded by an enclosure provisioned with landward defences. The exact nature of the enclosures is uncertain but they may have been temporary constructions. In 1925 Blyth Battery became incorporated into the development of the South Beach amenities when two of the buildings were converted into public toilets. In February 1940, the battery was re-excavated and by 14th March it was ready and mounted with two six-inch B.L mk.7 guns. Initially called Seaton Battery, it was renamed Blyth Battery in June 1940. The battery was now manned by A Battery, 510 Coast Regiment R.A (TA) with five officers and 110 men. The regiment was an independent Fire Command and commanded Berwick, Amble, Druridge, Gloucester and Blyth Batteries. By April 1944 Blyth Battery was manned by the Home Guard and in late November 1944 was placed in care and maintenance. The first area of protection contains two gun emplacements, various shelters, a Royal Artillery store, a World War I and a World War II battery observation post, a magazine and shell store and a block house. These were all contained within an enclosure and traces of the position of this enclosure are preserved in the sand dunes on the north and east sides, where they are visible as prominent scarps. The two gun emplacements are Listed Grade II. The gun emplacements each housed a six inch gun and are of typical World War I open form. They are seaward facing and each is fronted by a sloping apron of reinforced concrete. During World War II, each emplacement was provided with overhead protection in the form of a flat roofed superstructure, to protect the gunners from aerial attack. The gun emplacements are linked by a wall with a lower, flat-roofed, rectangular building to the rear. This building is divided into two separate rooms to form two lying down shelters in which the gun crews would rest. Access to the shelters was along a narrow lane to their rear. During the World War II alterations, the shelters were modified by the infilling of the original stairs and the insertion of a new door through the west wall. Internally much of the woodwork survives and one retains an original stove. The internal wall face at each end contains cupboards fitted with iron doors. Immediately opposite the more southerly of the two shelters there is a rectangular flat-roofed building that was used as a Royal Artillery store during World War I; gun and instrument parts were stored here and it also served as a workshop for the battery's artificer. During World War II it was used as sleeping quarters for the gun crews. To the south west of the store the officer's and men's shelters are contained within a rectangular building which was originally divided into three compartments; for the men, for the officers and a smaller room for the Battery Sergeant Major. This building was converted into public toilets between World War I and World War II. The magazine and shell stores which stored the reserve ammunition, are situated to the rear of the gun emplacements. Facing west, this structure was built into the face of a sand dune. An artificial mound which originally protected the entrance has been removed. The complex of four rooms includes a shell store, a shifting lobby, a magazine and a lamp room. The western face contains two doorways with a narrow opening to the right, giving access to the surrounding blast space. Internally much of the original woodwork and fittings survive. From this structure shells and cartridges were carried on trolleys to recesses beneath the gun emplacements. The World War I Battery Observation Post, where all operations were controlled, is situated to the north of the gun emplacements and magazine complex. This building is visible as a two storey flat-roofed tower which retains metal range finder housing on its roof. On its western side a metal stair leads up to a balcony supported on cantilever brackets. The lower storey housed the signallers, fire commander and associated services while the upper storey contained the battery Commander Post and the Defence Electric Light (D.E.L) installation Directing Station. When the battery was recommissioned during World War II, this Observation Post was superseded by a new Battery Observation Post which was completed in August 1940. This new building, situated immediately north of its predecessor, is visible as a rectangular, flat-roofed tower of two storeys. The lower floor is divided into two rooms thought to be the Regimental Plotting Room and the signallers post. The upper floor of this building was equipped with a Depression Range Finder; the original pillar of which remains in situ. Situated between the two Battery Observation Posts there is a five-sided block house which formed part of the landward defence of the battery. It has a flat concrete roof, a doorway, two hatches and nine loopholes. The five largest loopholes were intended for riflemen, while the four small loopholes were intended for machine guns and housed lamps to illuminate the immediate area at night. During World War II, this blockhouse was used to house an artificer's workshop. Situated between the two Battery Observation Posts there is a five-sided block house which formed part of the landward defence of the battery. It has a flat concrete roof, a doorway, two hatches and nine loopholes. The five largest loopholes were intended for riflemen while the four small loopholes were intended for machine guns, and housed lamps to illuminate the immediate area at night. During World War II, this blockhouse was used to house an artificer's workshop. The second area of protection lies 300m north of the first, and includes two World War 1 D.E.L emplacements and an associated engine house. These buildings were also originally contained within an enclosure provisioned with landward defences, the line of which has been preserved in parts by the amenity landscaping of the surrounding area. The engine house, its outbuilding and enclosing walls are Listed Grade II. The emplacements are constructed of reinforced concrete, steel and brick, and situated approximately 20m apart. They are small rectangular buildings with semi-octagonal flat-roofed projections at their seaward corners. Although they were originally intended to be protected by the surrounding enclosure and its defences, it is considered that protective block houses were never constructed and the search lights themselves appear to be self-protecting. Each has a doorway and window in the landward side and machine gun loops in the other walls. The curving part of the projection contains a large opening, originally furnished with sliding shutters which were drawn back when the light was exposed. The emplacements were operated from a director station located in the World War I Battery Observation Post. The more southerly of the two emplacements is divided into two parts; the seaward facing projection housed a 90cm search light which was separated from the other part by a wooden partition containing the duty crew. During World War II it is thought that only one of these search lights was operational. Some 50m west of the search lights there is the engine house and an associated outhouse to the north which provided the power for the D.E.L installation. This is visible as a rectangular brick building within a sunken, walled enclosure with concrete dressings and a reinforced concrete roof. The enclosing walls are extended to the north west to provide a flanking approach. An embayment on the north wall contained cooling tanks and an embayment on the east wall retains its bases for petrol and oil tanks. All telephone posts and the wooden fence around the north edge of the new bungalow are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included. All sanitary ware and plumbing used in the conversion of the shelter and the engine house to public toilets are also excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them and the surfaces to which they are attached is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 32802

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, 20th Century Fortifications in England VoIume 2 Coast artillery, (2000)
Fortress Consultants, , Blyth Battery: Feasibility Study, (1988)
Other
English Heritage, 5/120 Fort on Blyth Links,

End of official listing