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Blockhouse immediately west of Featherwood

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.3291 / 55°19'44"N

Longitude: -2.2936 / 2°17'36"W

OS Eastings: 381471.2265

OS Northings: 603927.161501

OS Grid: NT814039

Mapcode National: GBR D6FT.7H

Mapcode Global: WH8ZD.RB00

Entry Name: Blockhouse immediately west of Featherwood

Scheduled Date: 6 October 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021034

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32793

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

Details

The monument includes the standing and buried remains of a blockhouse
situated on the Otterburn Army Training Estate. The blockhouse, which is
now redundant, has been inserted into the narrow valley bottom of the
upper Sills Burn where it lies below the sight line. The blockhouse, which
lies immediately across the burn from Featherwood Farm, is clearly of
military construction and shares similar constructional techniques with
other blockhouses on the Range. It is thought that it was constructed by
the military and served as an early blast shelter for the protection of
the inhabitants of Featherwood during periods of live firing at the
Redesdale Range. It was superceded by the construction of a second blast
shelter attached to the rear of Featherwood, which is the subject of a
separate scheduling.

The blockhouse, situated into the right (west) bank of the burn, is
rectangular in shape and, constructed of reinforced concrete. It measures
a maximum of 3.4m north west to south east by 5.2m north east to south
west and stands to 2.4m above ground level at its north east face and 0.5m
at its south west face which is largely buried into the bank of the burn.
The structure was intended to be shellproof and the walls are therefore
0.6m thick. Two embrasures pierce the south east and north west faces
measuring 0.93m wide by 0.23m deep externally which narrow to 0.48m by
0.2m internally. Unusually both embrasures have wooden window frames
internally. A rectangular doorway 0.6m wide at one end of the north west
face similarly retains the remains of a wooden door frame and gives access
to a passageway, which leads directly into the interior of the blockhouse.
Evidence of the wooden plank shuttering used in construction of its roof
is exhibited in the concrete.

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

The Army Training Estate Otterburn (ATEO) is one of eight 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 blockhouse immediately west of Featherwood survives well and in an
unmodified condition. Its construction represents an early attempt by the
War Department to execute its obligations to its farming tenants during
periods of live fire. As such it is clearly of military construction but,
intended for civilian use, it is an important and significant feature of
early range safety.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
Document 118/Northern/229, Statement of Barrack Accommodation 1931 Redesdale practice camp, (1931)

Source: Historic England

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