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Coastal Artillery Battery on Blyth Links

A Scheduled Monument in Blyth, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.1086 / 55°6'30"N

Longitude: -1.499 / 1°29'56"W

OS Eastings: 432058.221222

OS Northings: 579466.649632

OS Grid: NZ320794

Mapcode National: GBR K9ZC.8J

Mapcode Global: WHC30.YVBK

Entry Name: Coastal Artillery Battery on Blyth Links

Scheduled Date: 19 January 2006

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021401

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32802

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Blyth

Built-Up Area: Blyth

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Blyth St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the above and below ground remains of a World War I and
World War II coastal artillery battery, situated among sand dunes in the
South Beach area of Blyth. The monument is divided into two separate areas of
protection.

The bombardment of Hartlepool in December 1916 by the German High Seas Fleet
killing 86 civilians and injuring 424 was a turning point for coastal
defence. It prompted the development of a wider coastal defence plan, and
construction of a battery at Blyth commenced in August 1916 by the Durham
Fortress Engineers RE. The new battery's prime purpose was to prevent enemy
landings and engage motor torpedo boats, but by the time of its completion in
February 1918 it was also intended to protect the submarine depot ship
Titania at Blyth. During World War I, the battery housed two six inch Quick
Firing guns and two search lights. The guns were manned by four officers and
75 men of the Tynemouth Royal Garrison Artillery. Officially known as Blyth
Battery, the battery was also known as Coulson Battery after the RE Officer
responsible for its construction, and also as Link House Battery. The battery
buildings are depicted on the third edition OS map for the area and are shown
as two separate areas, each surrounded by an enclosure provisioned with
landward defences. The exact nature of the enclosures is uncertain but they
may have been temporary constructions. In 1925 Blyth Battery became
incorporated into the development of the South Beach amenities when two of
the buildings were converted into public toilets. In February 1940, the
battery was re-excavated and by 14th March it was ready and mounted with two
six-inch B.L mk.7 guns. Initially called Seaton Battery, it was renamed Blyth
Battery in June 1940. The battery was now manned by A Battery, 510 Coast
Regiment R.A (TA) with five officers and 110 men. The regiment was an
independent Fire Command and commanded Berwick, Amble, Druridge, Gloucester
and Blyth Batteries. By April 1944 Blyth Battery was manned by the Home Guard
and in late November 1944 was placed in care and maintenance.

The first area of protection contains two gun emplacements, various shelters,
a Royal Artillery store, a World War I and a World War II battery observation
post, a magazine and shell store and a block house. These were all contained
within an enclosure and traces of the position of this enclosure are
preserved in the sand dunes on the north and east sides, where they are
visible as prominent scarps. The two gun emplacements are Listed Grade II.

The gun emplacements each housed a six inch gun and are of typical World War
I open form. They are seaward facing and each is fronted by a sloping apron
of reinforced concrete. During World War II, each emplacement was provided
with overhead protection in the form of a flat roofed superstructure, to
protect the gunners from aerial attack. The gun emplacements are linked by a
wall with a lower, flat-roofed, rectangular building to the rear. This
building is divided into two separate rooms to form two lying down shelters
in which the gun crews would rest. Access to the shelters was along a narrow
lane to their rear. During the World War II alterations, the shelters were
modified by the infilling of the original stairs and the insertion of a new
door through the west wall. Internally much of the woodwork survives and one
retains an original stove. The internal wall face at each end contains
cupboards fitted with iron doors.

Immediately opposite the more southerly of the two shelters there is a
rectangular flat-roofed building that was used as a Royal Artillery store
during World War I; gun and instrument parts were stored here and it also
served as a workshop for the battery's artificer. During World War II it was
used as sleeping quarters for the gun crews. To the south west of the store
the officer's and men's shelters are contained within a rectangular building
which was originally divided into three compartments; for the men, for the
officers and a smaller room for the Battery Sergeant Major. This building was
converted into public toilets between World War I and World War II.

The magazine and shell stores which stored the reserve ammunition, are
situated to the rear of the gun emplacements. Facing west, this structure was
built into the face of a sand dune. An artificial mound which originally
protected the entrance has been removed. The complex of four rooms includes
a shell store, a shifting lobby, a magazine and a lamp room. The western face
contains two doorways with a narrow opening to the right, giving access to
the surrounding blast space. Internally much of the original woodwork and
fittings survive. From this structure shells and cartridges were carried on
trolleys to recesses beneath the gun emplacements.

The World War I Battery Observation Post, where all operations were
controlled, is situated to the north of the gun emplacements and magazine
complex. This building is visible as a two storey flat-roofed tower which
retains metal range finder housing on its roof. On its western side a metal
stair leads up to a balcony supported on cantilever brackets. The lower
storey housed the signallers, fire commander and associated services while
the upper storey contained the battery Commander Post and the Defence
Electric Light (D.E.L) installation Directing Station. When the battery was
recommissioned during World War II, this Observation Post was superseded by a
new Battery Observation Post which was completed in August 1940. This new
building, situated immediately north of its predecessor, is visible as a
rectangular, flat-roofed tower of two storeys. The lower floor is divided
into two rooms thought to be the Regimental Plotting Room and the signallers
post. The upper floor of this building was equipped with a Depression Range
Finder; the original pillar of which remains in situ.

Situated between the two Battery Observation Posts there is a five-sided
block house which formed part of the landward defence of the battery. It has
a flat concrete roof, a doorway, two hatches and nine loopholes. The five
largest loopholes were intended for riflemen, while the four small loopholes
were intended for machine guns and housed lamps to illuminate the immediate
area at night. During World War II, this blockhouse was used to house an
artificer's workshop.

Situated between the two Battery Observation Posts there is a five-sided
block house which formed part of the landward defence of the battery. It has
a flat concrete roof, a doorway, two hatches and nine loopholes. The five
largest loopholes were intended for riflemen while the four small loopholes
were intended for machine guns, and housed lamps to illuminate the immediate
area at night. During World War II, this blockhouse was used to house an
artificer's workshop.

The second area of protection lies 300m north of the first, and includes two
World War 1 D.E.L emplacements and an associated engine house. These
buildings were also originally contained within an enclosure provisioned with
landward defences, the line of which has been preserved in parts by the
amenity landscaping of the surrounding area. The engine house, its
outbuilding and enclosing walls are Listed Grade II.

The emplacements are constructed of reinforced concrete, steel and brick, and
situated approximately 20m apart. They are small rectangular buildings with
semi-octagonal flat-roofed projections at their seaward corners. Although
they were originally intended to be protected by the surrounding enclosure
and its defences, it is considered that protective block houses were never
constructed and the search lights themselves appear to be self-protecting.
Each has a doorway and window in the landward side and machine gun loops in
the other walls. The curving part of the projection contains a large opening,
originally furnished with sliding shutters which were drawn back when the
light was exposed. The emplacements were operated from a director station
located in the World War I Battery Observation Post. The more southerly of
the two emplacements is divided into two parts; the seaward facing projection
housed a 90cm search light which was separated from the other part by a
wooden partition containing the duty crew. During World War II it is thought
that only one of these search lights was operational.

Some 50m west of the search lights there is the engine house and an
associated outhouse to the north which provided the power for the D.E.L
installation. This is visible as a rectangular brick building within a
sunken, walled enclosure with concrete dressings and a reinforced concrete
roof. The enclosing walls are extended to the north west to provide a
flanking approach. An embayment on the north wall contained cooling tanks and
an embayment on the east wall retains its bases for petrol and oil tanks.

All telephone posts and the wooden fence around the north edge of the new
bungalow are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is
included. All sanitary ware and plumbing used in the conversion of the
shelter and the engine house to public toilets are also excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath them and the surfaces to which they
are attached is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The use of fixed artillery to protect the coast from hostile ships is one of
the oldest practices in the history of England's defences. From the fifteenth
until the second half of the twentieth century, coast artillery provided home
security as well as protecting communications and trade networks across the
British Empire.

The term battery refers to any place where artillery is positioned to allow
the guns to cover a particular area, such as a line of communication or the
approaches to a vulnerable location. During this time batteries of fixed guns
formed the first line of defence for the navy's anchorages and the larger
commercial ports. Apart from a brief period early in World War II, when
improvised batteries formed a continuous cordon around the coast, England's
modern stock of coast artillery sites was dominated by positions originating
before 1900. Coast artillery was finally stood-down in 1956. Defended Port
Batteries were one of four classes of twentieth century batteries which can
be identified - the other three are Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat Batteries (AMTB),
Emergency Coastal Batteries (ECB), and Temporary and Mobile Artillery (TMA).

As might be suggested by their name, Defended Port Batteries were established
around major British commercial ports from the beginning of the 20th century
until the abolition of coastal artillery in 1956. The Tyne was the
northernmost permanently defended port in England and the artillery of the
area was organised around Blyth, Tynemouth and Sunderland. All coastal
batteries where sufficient physical remains survive to illustrate and provide
information about the site's original form and function are considered to be
of national importance.

The World War I Battery at Blyth is well preserved and retains the full range
of features characteristic of this type of coastal battery. As well as
evidence for its original layout including the surrounding defensive
enclosures, these include the gun emplacements, operational buildings and
ancillary buildings. The survival of the associated searchlight emplacements
enhances the importance of the monument. This battery has been identified as
one of only 28 examples of its type in England which have survived in a
complete state. The fact that it was reused during World War II, when some
alterations were made and a new Battery Observation post was constructed,
adds to the importance of the monument as a whole. Blyth Battery will
contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the two World Wars and it
stands as a highly visible reminder of the measures taken to protect the
coast of England during the 20th century.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, 20th Century Fortifications in England VoIume 2 Coast artillery, (2000)
Fortress Consultants, , Blyth Battery: Feasibility Study, (1988)
Other
English Heritage, 5/120 Fort on Blyth Links,

Source: Historic England

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