Ancient Monuments

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Pickett-Hamilton fort 600m south east of Limekiln Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Burtonwood and Westbrook, Warrington

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Latitude: 53.4128 / 53°24'46"N

Longitude: -2.649 / 2°38'56"W

OS Eastings: 356954.408488

OS Northings: 390860.865381

OS Grid: SJ569908

Mapcode National: GBR 9XYZ.8B

Mapcode Global: WH98J.8HS1

Entry Name: Pickett-Hamilton fort 600m south east of Limekiln Farm

Scheduled Date: 6 December 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020869

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33885

County: Warrington

Civil Parish: Burtonwood and Westbrook

Built-Up Area: Warrington

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Westbrook St Philip

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool


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.

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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
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.

Source: Historic England


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

Source: Historic England

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