Ancient Monuments

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Observation post 240m west of Ridlees Cairn

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3321 / 55°19'55"N

Longitude: -2.2533 / 2°15'11"W

OS Eastings: 384025.97108

OS Northings: 604257.438115

OS Grid: NT840042

Mapcode National: GBR D6PS.YD

Mapcode Global: WHB0K.C77N

Entry Name: Observation post 240m west of Ridlees Cairn

Scheduled Date: 6 October 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021027

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32786

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Rochester

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Horsley with Byrness

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


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.

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

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.

Source: Historic England

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