Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Steel Cottage, anti-aircraft battery 480m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank, Renfrewshire

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9139 / 55°54'50"N

Longitude: -4.5995 / 4°35'58"W

OS Eastings: 237626

OS Northings: 672035

OS Grid: NS376720

Mapcode National: GBR 3B.0KGG

Mapcode Global: WH3NQ.9MZ5

Entry Name: Steel Cottage, anti-aircraft battery 480m NW of

Scheduled Date: 25 March 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12889

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Battery

Location: Erskine

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a heavy anti-aircraft battery, dating to the Second World War. Consisting of a command post, several gun emplacements and a number of associated buildings, the site is located on a SE-facing slope some 480m north-west of Steel Cottage.

The battery lies in an area of rough grazing on the slopes of Gallahill, adjacent to a golf course attached to the Gleddoch House Hotel. The site consists of four upstanding gun emplacements, two ammunition magazines, an outbuilding and the earthwork remains of a setting for three fuel tanks. The command post also survives, but is now wholly buried.

All four surviving gun pits are octagonal on plan, measuring around 13m in diameter and built of reinforced concrete. The gun pits comprise two walls each forming three sides of the octagonal shape, with the remaining two sides left open for access, one facing inwards towards the command post and the other facing outwards to the magazines. Earth has been piled up against the exterior of each wall to increase the protection against blast damage. Attached to the interior of each wall are three ammunition lockers, although these have been wholly removed from the NNW gun pit.

Two magazines survive towards the northern and western edges of the site. They lie outside the arc of the four gun emplacements, with each located halfway between the two emplacements it served. Each magazine is a rectangular structure around 13m in length by 5m wide. They are constructed of reinforced concrete with a single entrance and with partitions dividing the interior into five cells. Three concrete ramps lead to the entrance of each magazine, with one of these running straight between the emplacements towards the command post and the centre of the site, and the remaining two each curving up to the outer entrance of one the emplacements it served. The northern magazine has been partially buried in recent times, preventing access.

The final visible element of the site is a rectangular flat-roofed building to the north-west of the gun pits. Built of concrete, it comprises a single room and there is a small cubicle-like outshot on its north-west, possibly a chemical toilet. The building has four windows, all facing south-west. This may have been a small arms store as its form is similar to one at Larkfield battery. An alternative suggestion is that this was some form of maintenance store or maintenance room. Three earthwork 'cradles', probably to support tanks, lie immediately outside the building. These probably contained fuel and oil needed to keep the battery functioning and painted labels inside the maintenance building appear to list the contents of the tanks.

The command post is now wholly buried and only patches of its flat roof and discontinuous sections of wall-head remain visible. Typically these were E-shaped buildings on plan, with six internal rooms. Often the largest of these was the plotting room. Assuming this command post followed the normal layout, the entrance would have been through the central arm. Outside of this would formerly have been the shelters for the Predictor and Height-Finder.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This well-preserved example of a heavy anti-aircraft (HAA) battery dates to the Second World War. This type of monument would have been a familiar sight in the 1940s. Given the good level of preservation of this site, there is a high potential for archaeological information related to the construction, use and abandonment of the battery to survive, both within and around the structures. As one of the group of AA batteries installed as part of the aerial defences of the Clyde Gun Defended Area, this site could potentially supply valuable information about the technologies of Second World War aerial defences. The maintenance building retains valuable internal details, including a series of hand-painted labels on the wall, providing information about its role and the contents of the tanks outside.

A further interesting feature to note is the presence of architectural detailing on the western magazine and the maintenance building. Each of the exterior windows has a false lintel and sill created from reinforced concrete, which appear to be for decoration only. For a rapidly erected structure likely created to a prefabricated specification, such architectural detail appears unusual. Further study of the origin and reason for its inclusion could supply valuable information about the construction of the monument and its impact upon the daily life of the gun crews stationed there and in the surrounding area.

Contextual characteristics

The Clyde was the most significant strategic asset in the west of Scotland during the Second World War and one of the most significant assets of the entire country. It was home to the most extensive shipbuilding industry in Britain, an extensive range of other important industrial concerns such as munitions, and was the destination point for the Atlantic convoys bringing vital supplies and troops from the United States. Later in the war it would also serve as a vital mustering point for the fleets involved in the invasions of North Africa in 1942 and Normandy in 1944. This site was a part of the Clyde Gun Defended Area (GDA), a grouping of 46 HAA batteries created to protect the Clyde from aerial assault. This was a third of the total complement of anti-aircraft batteries created in Scotland as a whole and formed only one aspect of the wider defence of the Clyde, highlighting the critical need to keep the Clyde harbours and industries running.

The location of this site gives it views to the south and north over the Clyde, particularly towards Dumbarton, although the towns of Port Glasgow and Greenock are not directly visible. It should be remembered, however, that the restricted view is of little problem to the site, as its focus was defence of the sky and the higher ground is not far enough above the site to hinder this function. The long views to the north and south are also appropriate, as this would have been the main axis of approach for enemy bombers attacking the area and the longer view would permit earlier alert of incoming aircraft.

With the outbreak of war in 1939, a rapid programme of construction was undertaken to provide a defensive network for the country. This included the Gun Defended Areas of HAA batteries protecting major towns and strategic assets. By the war's end, more than 1,200 HAA batteries had been constructed. Early examples do appear to have roughly followed the form visible here, with four octagonal gun emplacements in an arc around a command post.

As the war progressed and technology advanced, the original manual guns were superseded by larger, electrically powered examples at many batteries. Some sites were completely rebuilt with new square gun emplacements to permit the installation of the new weapons, while others were retrofitted and/or had additional gun emplacements of the new form added. It is unclear whether these changes were made at this site.

Associative characteristics

The impact of the Second World War on the lives and landscape of Scotland in the late 1930s and 1940s was on a scale never before witnessed. The mobilisation of the entire country to aid the war effort would transform the social and economic character of the nation and the new threat of long-range aerial attack brought the war directly into the daily lives of the civilian population. Its place in the national consciousness remains prominent to this day, and many people alive today remember first-hand the experiences and impact the conflict would have on them.

The industrial workers of the Clyde had been notoriously left-wing during the First World War, with many of the leaders of the so-called 'Red Clydesiders' finding themselves imprisoned for their objections to the conflict. With the outbreak of the Second World War, however, the need to fight was recognised as greater than personal feeling and the Clydesiders willingly took their part in aiding the war effort. In the west of Scotland, the war would create an industrial boom that would prove unsustainable in the long term, with the drop in shipbuilding following the end of the war, and the resulting economic decline would never be reversed. Very little evidence now survives of this former landscape.

A high level of effort was made to protect the strategic asset of the Clyde during the Second World War. The Clyde GDA would contain one third of the HAA batteries in Scotland and the same number as the next largest two combined: the Scapa and Forth GDAs. These batteries would be manned by troops from the Royal Artillery, aided by volunteers from the local regiments of the Home Guard, although, as the war progressed, the volunteers were assigned further duties, including manning the guns themselves. Given its proximity to the towns of Greenock and Port Glasgow, it is highly likely that Home Guard volunteers who lived in the area will have served on this battery during its operational life. Documentary records indicate that this battery comprised four 3.7 inch guns, but it is unclear if it was upgraded later in the war. Archaeological evidence at the site may provide us with definitive information on the armament of the battery.

Despite the efforts to protect the area, the strategic value of the Clyde had been recognised by the Axis powers early in the war, with Luftwaffe reconnaissance photographs of Greenock and the surrounding area appearing less than a month after the outbreak of hostilities in 1939.

On the nights of the 6 and 7 May 1941, Greenock suffered the second worst bombing raids inflicted on Scotland during the entire war. On the night of Tuesday 6 May, a force of 276 German bombers had been dispatched to strike targets on both sides of the Clyde, including Greenock. Around 50 bombers dropped their payloads on Greenock and the surrounding area, causing damage to several areas of the town and killing numerous people, including many civilians inside one of the public shelters. Worse was to come on 7 May, however. It was a common tactic to raid the same target on consecutive nights, using any fires remaining as targeting aids. The air-raid sirens began sounding around 25 minutes after midnight and one of the first buildings to be hit was the Ardgowan Distillery within the town. The resulting inferno would illuminate the town and thus provide an easy target for following bombers. To make matters worse, a direct hit was scored on the Westburn Sugar House, starting another huge blaze. These fires were large enough to be seen 100 miles away and the bombers would continue to attack the town until almost 4 am. By the end of the attacks, the Air Raid Precautions Control Room in Greenock listed 159 areas of the town as being of critical concern and reinforcements were drafted in from as far afield as Edinburgh to help with the aftermath. The result of the raid would be 271 deaths, more than 1,200 people injured, and damage to more than half the homes in the town, with 1,000 completely destroyed. The incident would leave a lasting impact on the town and its surrounding area.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the defences of the Clyde during the Second World War and their place within the wider defensive network of wartime Britain. The remains of the battery may hold valuable information about the function and operation of such sites and the daily lives of the troops stationed at them. This site is particularly valuable given its good preservation and its role in one of the most significant events of the Second World War in Scotland. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the efforts and sacrifices made to defend the Clyde during the Second World War, and the preparation, construction, use and eventual abandonment of the defences themselves.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as NS37SE 30. The WOSAS SMR designation is 20020.

References

Osborne, M 2004, Defending Britain: Twentieth Century Military Structures in the Landscape, Stroud: Tempus Publishing Ltd.

Dobinson, C 2001, AA Command: Britain's Anti-Aircraft Defences of the Second World War, London: Methuen Publishing Ltd.

Gemmill, S 2001, Greenock Revisited, http://www.greenockrevisited.co.uk/.

Osborne, B D and Armstrong, R 2005, The Clyde at War, Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.