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Observation post immediately north of Watty Bell's Cairn

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3112 / 55°18'40"N

Longitude: -2.1717 / 2°10'18"W

OS Eastings: 389195.632217

OS Northings: 601911.708123

OS Grid: NT891019

Mapcode National: GBR F780.MX

Mapcode Global: WHB0L.MR1R

Entry Name: Observation post immediately north of Watty Bell's Cairn

Scheduled Date: 6 October 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021036

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32795

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Rochester

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the above and below ground remains of a bunker
situated on the Otterburn Army Training Estate. The bunker, which served
as an Observation Post known as OP 4, is now redundant and is one of a
group of four on the Training Estate situated in two pairs. The other
three bunkers and Watty Bell's Cairn are the subjects of separate
schedulings. The bunker was intended to provide shelter during training
for parties of 16 Forward Observation Officers guiding artillery fire into
the impact area from mobile guns placed outside. The exact date of its
construction is uncertain but a similar structure thought to provide a
parallel for the Redesdale examples was constructed on the Okehampton
Artillery Range in 1923/24.

The bunker, which faces north to command views over the Redesdale Impact
Area, is visible as a rectangular blockhouse with projecting triangular
wings encased in an earth and stone mound. The blockhouse is constructed
of reinforced concrete and measures 23m east to west by 2.5m north to
south and stands 2.75m high at the front. The walls, which are
splinterproof, are 0.45m thick. Four recessed, rectangular embrasures
0.46m deep and 2.1m wide pierce its front face with a concrete lintel
over, which projects 0.15m and is 0.5m high. The mound, which encases the
blockhouse, is 30m long, 13.5m wide and about 1.1m high at the rear. The
rear of the mound has been modified to provide a central ramped access to
the roof 5m wide. A raised causeway projects for a further 5m beyond the
rear of the mound.

Entry to the bunker is gained at the west end of the north face by a
series of descending concrete steps which are protected on each side by a
brick blast wall. The stairs give access to an offset passageway about
0.8m wide. Internally there are the remains of continuous raised wooden
seating from where the operatives would sit to gain good vision. A
drainage gully at floor level runs the length of the bunker immediately
below the embrasures. It passes through the east wall of the bunker into a
small drain within the offset passageway. A sign reinforcing the rules of
engagement is situated on the rear wall of the bunker and a field
telephone is attached to the west end of the north wall. Evidence of the
wooden shuttering used in its construction are exhibited in the roof which
also shows the grain of the wood clearly.

The military range warning sign within its wooden fenced enclosure at the
north west corner of the monument is excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

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 immediately north of Watty Bell's Cairn survives well
in an unmodified state with a range of its component features intact. It
was constructed as part of a wider group of four bunkers, which represent
a major phase of artillery training between World War I and II. These are
rare examples of structures of this kind with the only parallel being
single examples at Salisbury Plain and Okehampton Training Areas. Hence
they are an important survival of military training in England.

Source: Historic England


Francis, Paul , (2002)
Thomas, Roger J C , (2002)

Source: Historic England

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