Ancient Monuments

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Cold War defence boom, Pig's Bay, Shoeburyness

A Scheduled Monument in Shoeburyness, Southend-on-Sea

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Latitude: 51.5245 / 51°31'28"N

Longitude: 0.8169 / 0°49'0"E

OS Eastings: 595504.3707

OS Northings: 184385.8271

OS Grid: TQ955843

Mapcode National: GBR RR5.9BV

Mapcode Global: VHKHP.3YP5

Entry Name: Cold War defence boom, Pig's Bay, Shoeburyness

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021091

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35502

County: Southend-on-Sea

Electoral Ward/Division: Shoeburyness

Built-Up Area: Southend-on-Sea

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: South Shoebury St Andrew with St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes the remaining part of a naval boom, constructed across
the Thames estuary between Shoeburyness and Sheerness in order to control the
movement of shipping in the early years of the Cold War.

The surviving section of the boom is formed of two parallel rows of tall
off-set concrete pilings, linked by angle-iron strapping to form an
undecked pier extending some 2.01km from the north bank of the estuary. The
landward end of the pier is marked by the heads of piles buried by sand near
Blackgate Road, Shoeburyness, between the former Royal Artillery barracks and
the military firing ranges. From here it extends in a south easterly
direction via three straight runs of pilings and two shallow angles, crossing
sand banks and mud flats to reach the mean low water mark at the south end of
Maplin Sands.

The boom was built in the early 1950s to replace a World War II pier of
similar purpose that stood some 15m-60m to the north east, of which nothing
remains. Like its predecessor, the replacement boom once extended as far as
the deep water shipping channel. A matching structure continued south of the
channel to Sheerness on the opposite side of the estuary. It was intended
that moored vessels would occupy the gap between the two piers. However, the
rapid pace of technological change in the early stages of the Cold War soon
made this form of defence redundant. The boom was subsequently demolished in
the 1960s leaving only the truncated northern arm to mark its former presence.
This surviving section is almost completely intact, with only a short gap in
the third run of pilings and some limited loss of piles towards the outer end
of the second run. It is believed to be unique.

The following items are excluded from the scheduling: all fixtures and
fittings relating to the modern shipping navigation light at the seaward end
of the pier and all warning notices, mooring bollards and modern access
walkways and ladders. The Cold War structures beneath them or to which they
are attached are, however, included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The archaeological remains of the Cold War are the physical manifestation of
the global division between capitalism and communism that shaped the history
of the late 20th century. The defensive boom at Shoeburyness provides a
graphic representation of military thinking in the early period of this
conflict, when defence strategy drew much of its inspiration from the
experience of World War II.

The original wartime boom was designed to prevent enemy vessels from entering
the Thames and attacking anchored shipping. It served to constrict the
channel and as a mounting point for anti-aircraft guns and searchlights
providing some defence against aerial attack along the Thames. By 1950-53,
when Admiralty plans record the construction of the replacement boom, the
nature of the threat was very different. Britain's main concern, heightened
by political tensions arising from the Korean War, was the Soviet Union's
ability to attack major urban centres with manned turboprop bombers carrying
atomic bombs.

The replacement boom would have served little purpose in such an eventuality
and, like the retained `Igloo' system of anti-aircraft guns in Kent and
Essex, seems to have formed part of an increasingly outmoded defence strategy
based on wartime precedents rather than the emerging threat. By the mid 1950s
advancing technology, in the form of fast jet bombers, the hydrogen bomb and
the capability of long-range rockets rendered the boom system obsolete and
heralded its eventual, partial, demolition.

Although many defensive barriers across estuaries and harbours are known from
World War II (and indeed earlier periods), the Shoeburyness boom is the only
example known to exist, or to have been built, during the Cold War era. The
surviving section of this unique structure remains well-preserved and serves
as a significant illustration of Britain's early attempts to formulate
effective defence measures in the face of rapid technological development.

Source: Historic England

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