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Westerdunes Court, Pillbox 235m north of

A Scheduled Monument in North Berwick Coastal, East Lothian

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.0592 / 56°3'33"N

Longitude: -2.7555 / 2°45'19"W

OS Eastings: 353050

OS Northings: 685409

OS Grid: NT530854

Mapcode National: GBR 2S.QBWQ

Mapcode Global: WH7TC.NY2T

Entry Name: Westerdunes Court, Pillbox 235m N of

Scheduled Date: 7 June 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13103

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Pillbox

Location: Dirleton

County: East Lothian

Electoral Ward: North Berwick Coastal

Traditional County: East Lothian

Description

The monument is a concrete pillbox that bears the date 1919. The pillbox has an octagonal design and measures about 4.4m N-S by 4.4m transversely, with sides around 1.8m long. An additional wall projects into the interior to protect the entrance. The walls contain 16 loopholes of varying size. The pillbox lies near the SE end of the Broad Sands beach, in sand dunes 20m inland from the beach, some 5m above sea level. It is located about 2km W of North Berwick and 1.9 km NE of Dirleton. The site offers views out into the Firth of Forth, but also NW along the whole length of Broad Sands.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, with a diameter of 15m, and is centred on the centre of the pillbox. It includes 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

The pillbox is built of cast concrete and survives in excellent condition overall, despite localised decay at the east edge of the roof. Internally, the lower parts of the walls show ridges that reflect the use of corrugated iron or a similar material as shuttering during construction. Iron straps are visible on the underside of the roof and must have been placed between the shuttering and the concrete when the roof was cast. The 16 loopholes (or embrasures) comprise three larger openings and 13 smaller ones. The larger openings are sited on the N, W and S walls, have shelves immediately below, and were probably designed to house machine-guns. Two round section iron bars protrude into the interior of the pillbox from below the large loophole on the N face and may represent machine-gun mounts. A hinged metal shutter survives intact on the SE wall of the pillbox and can be raised to cover the loophole above. A set of hinges and bar on the E wall suggests that the pillbox was originally equipped with additional shutters of a similar type. Inspection of the date stamp indicates no reason why this should not indicate the construction of the pillbox. The monument has the potential to give researchers a better and more complete understanding of the development of pillboxes.

Contextual characteristics

Defensive structures have been widely used over long periods of time and by the 19th and early 20th centuries these included infantry blockhouses. However, it was during the First World War, particularly on the Western Front, that protective structures to house machine-gun emplacements were developed, becoming what we now know as 'pillboxes'. At first the Germans used bunkers alongside machine-gun posts as shelters for the crew. However, when the British advanced at Ypres in July 1917, they encountered reinforced concrete bunkers measuring about 8m by 6m, specifically designed to house machine-guns. Allied engineers recorded these structures and developed their own designs. Early examples were rectangular and used concrete blocks tied together with steel rods, but offered very little internal space. Examples were shipped back to England in August 1918 for testing by artillery fire. Alternative designs included the Moir Pillbox, circular with domed roof, and the Hobbs machine-gun casement, a revolving armour-plated cupola, of which over 250 were produced in Glasgow.

As well as starting to build pillboxes at the front line, the British built a small number as part of their rear defence lines. At Les-Six-Roues, part of the West Hazebrouck line in France, there is a British pillbox built in 1918. It has a hexagonal design and is a relatively large structure, measuring 5.8m by 5m. It has embrasures in two of its three forward faces. Near Albert there is a group of similar hexagonal pillboxes, with a variety of mountings for Vickers machine-guns. These pillboxes are similar to later models, leading researchers to suggest they may be prototypes, based on a known German design that was hexagonal with a long, straight base wall and loopholes on all three forward faces.

Pillboxes were also used in Britain's home defences, though with the exception of the Moir pillbox, the designs seem to be different. No known Moir examples survive, but four other main types are known. From 1916, a line of circular pillboxes formed part of the coastal defences in North Norfolk, with similar structures also used on the Suffolk coast. The design comprised a cylinder of concrete blocks around 4.5m in external diameter, with a cast concrete roof and up to five loopholes with hinged steel shutters. About 25 of this type survive in East Anglia, including examples at Muckleburgh in Norfolk and Aylmerton in Suffolk. They were often sited in pairs. The second widely used design was hexagonal, and resembles a common Second World War design. These pillboxes had sides about 2.1m long, with a low entrance in one face closed by steel doors and loopholes in the other faces. This type was built of concrete poured into timber shuttering. Pairs exist at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and Rushmere in Suffolk. A third design, also hexagonal but larger, was used on the Lincolnshire coast and in the Thames and Medway defences, but is known only from photographs. Documentary sources suggest they were in use by 1916. The fourth category comprises simple square pillboxes with sides 2.1m long. The known examples are confined to Kent.

Other First World War pillboxes in Britain appear either to be unique constructions or to be confined to one place. These include ovoid pillboxes defending Chatham and 11-sided pillboxes at Chattenden, and four-sided designs apparently resembling examples on the Western Front, known from Bawdsey in Suffolk and the area around Theddlethorpe-St-Helen on the Lincolnshire coast. Reinforced concrete chambers were also used on the promenade at Redcar in North Yorkshire.

Given this context, it is clear that this monument does not conform to a recognised type. Instead, it may be a rare example of a prototype that played a part in the development of pillboxes, but was not closely copied. The construction of this pillbox in 1919, the year after the end of the First World War, also makes the structure unusual and adds to the likelihood that it may have been experimental. Nevertheless, it was built probably to contribute to the wider aim of the defence of the Forth. As well as looking out over the waters of the estuary, it also commands Broad Sands. It may have played a part in the evolving protection of military assets in the area, including East Fortune airship station, established in 1915-16 as a major element of the strategic network protecting the British coastline, and Drem Airfield.

Associative characteristics

Pillboxes are familiar monuments to many people and provide a physical reminder of the two World Wars of the 20th century.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the development of defences to protect the United Kingdom during and after the First World War. It survives in good overall condition, with its interior open and the loopholes well preserved. It is part of a wider defensive network including airfields at East Fortune and Drem. Its early date, and the fact that the pillbox does not conform to a recognised type, enhances its significance. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development and early use of pillboxes.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Osborne, M, 2008 Pillboxes of Britain and Ireland. Tempus Publishing, Stroud.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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