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Heavy Anti-aircraft gunsite, 400m west of Sutton Fields Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Sutton Weaver, Cheshire West and Chester

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.3092 / 53°18'33"N

Longitude: -2.6782 / 2°40'41"W

OS Eastings: 354906.95408

OS Northings: 379357.907434

OS Grid: SJ549793

Mapcode National: GBR 9ZQ5.ZF

Mapcode Global: WH87Y.T2VX

Entry Name: Heavy Anti-aircraft gunsite, 400m west of Sutton Fields Farm

Scheduled Date: 9 March 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019849

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33857

County: Cheshire West and Chester

Civil Parish: Sutton Weaver

Built-Up Area: Sutton Weaver

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Aston St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Chester

Details

The monument includes the standing, earthwork and buried remains of the World
War II Heavy Anti-aircraft (HAA) gunsite at Sutton Weaver. In official army
records this site is called Station H18 or Sutton. The site includes the core
functional buildings, consisting of five gun emplacements, a command post, two
garages with maintenance bays adjacent to them and a generator building.
Billeting for the staff was in huts to the south of the present complex and
these have not survived. Station H18 was first mentioned in February 1940. In
June 1942 it was armed with four 3.7in guns supported by GL MkII radar and
manned by units of the Home Guard. It was not one of the 192 HAA gunsites to
be retained as part of the post-war Nucleus Force after 1945.
The gun emplacements are arranged in an arc around the south eastern and south
western sides of the central command post. The defence focus was therefore the
Weaver Navigation and the Manchester Ship Canal. Four of the emplacements
survive as concrete octagonal open pens, measuring approximately 7.5m across
with two opposing open facets. There are no hinge bolts for steel blast doors
in these buildings. Inside each, attached to four of the six remaining walls
there are concrete roofed boxes which served to store ammunition and offer
shelter for the gun crews when they were not in action. Wooden racking for the
shells survives in some of these boxes. On two of the outside walls of each
gunpit there is also a concrete roofed shelter, which served as a shelter and
store for equipment. These four emplacements survive to their original height.
A fifth emplacement is represented by a circular concrete plate set into the
ground to the east of the command post. The rest of this emplacement has been
levelled.
To the north of the emplacements and occupying the centre of the site is a
concrete roofed command post with its centre open to the sky. This would have
held offices, a predictor and a telescope for identifying target aircraft.
This complex is partly below ground level. In these buildings electrical
fittings, the original hardboard wall lining and even cardboard fire
regulation notices survive. The radar was probably situated 20m to the north
on a brick revetted platform.
To the north west and north east of the command post are two brick-built open
bays, approximately 8m square with open sides facing into the centre of the
complex. The walls are approximately 2m high and the structures are unroofed.
Each is associated with a concrete garage. Some 40m to the north of the
command post is a large concrete roofed building with garage bay doors on the
eastern side and steel louvre grills on the south wall. This was for a heavy
generator to provide power for the complex independent of the national
electricity supply.
The site is surrounded by its original concrete posts which used to support a
wire-mesh fence and two rows of barbed wire at the apex.
Several items are excluded from the scheduling. These include: all modern
fences and gates, more recent doors and wooden attachments to the original
buildings, permanent and semi-permanent outbuildings and caravans. The ground
beneath these features, however, 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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Although of comparatively recent date, 20th century military sites are
increasingly seen as historic survivals representing a defining episode in the
history of warfare and of the century in general; as such they merit careful
record and, in some cases, preservation. One of the more significant
developments in the evolution of warfare during this period was the emergence
of strategic bombing in World War II, and this significance was reflected by
the resources invested in defence, both in terms of personnel and the sites on
which they served. During the war, the number of people in Anti-aircraft
Command reached a peak of 274,900 men, additional to the women soldiers of the
ATS who served on gunsites from summer 1941, and the Home Guard who manned
many sites later in the war. A national survey of England's Anti-aircraft
provision, based on archive sources, has produced a detailed record of how
many sites there were, where they were and what they looked like. It is also
now known from a survey of aerial photographs how many of these survive.
Anti-aircraft gunsites divide into three main types: those for heavy guns
(HAA), light guns (LAA) and batteries for firing primitive unguided rockets
(so called ZAA sites). In addition to gunsites, decoy targets were employed to
deceive enemy bombers, while fighter command played a complementary and
significant role. Following the end of World War II, 192 HAA sites were
selected for post-war use as the Nucleus Force, which was finally closed in
1955.
The HAA sites contained big guns with the function of engaging high flying
strategic bombers, hence their location around the south and east coasts, and
close to large cities and industrial and military targets. Of all the
gunsites, these were the most substantially built. There were three main
types: those for static guns (mostly 4.5 and 3.7 inch); those for 3.7 inch
mobile guns; and sites accommodating 5.25 inch weapons. These were all
distinct in fabric, though they could all occupy the same position at
different dates, or simultaneously by accretion. As well as the four or eight
gun emplacements, with their holdfast mountings for the guns, components will
generally include operational buildings such as a command post, radar
structures including the radar platform, on-site magazines for storing reserve
ammunition, gun stores and generating huts, usually one of the standard Nissen
hut designs. Domestic sites were also a feature of HAA gunsites, with huts,
ablutions blocks, offices, stores and amenities drawn from a common pool of
approved structures. Sites were often also provided with structures for their
close defence; pillboxes are the most common survivals, though earthwork
emplacements were also present. The layout of HAA gunsites was distinctive,
but changed over time, for example to accommodate the introduction of radar
from December 1940, women soldiers from summer 1941, and eight gun layouts
from late 1942.
Nearly 1,000 gunsites were built during World War II, and less than 200 of
these have some remains surviving. However, at only around 60 sites are these
remains thought sufficient to provide an understanding of their original form
and function. This includes 30 of the 192 examples which continued in use
until 1955. Surviving examples are therefore sufficiently rare to suggest that
all 60 well preserved examples are of national importance.

The Heavy Anti-aircraft gunsite 400m west of Sutton Fields Farm is
exceptionally well-preserved. The operational core of the original plan
survives as standing concrete and brick buildings with few additions or
demolished structures. The details include electrical fittings and the
hardboard wall linings of the command post and wooden racks for the shells in
the four standing gun emplacements. The concrete stanchions for the perimeter
fence also survive.

Source: Historic England

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