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Pillbox at Bromholm Priory

A Grade II Listed Building in Keswick, Norfolk

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.8448 / 52°50'41"N

Longitude: 1.483 / 1°28'58"E

OS Eastings: 634649

OS Northings: 333158

OS Grid: TG346331

Mapcode National: GBR XGM.PRD

Mapcode Global: WHMSK.RRDH

Plus Code: 9F43RFVM+W6

Entry Name: Pillbox at Bromholm Priory

Listing Date: 17 June 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1434160

Location: Bacton, North Norfolk, Norfolk, NR12

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Bacton

Built-Up Area: Keswick

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Bacton

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

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Summary


World War II Type 22 pillbox.

Description

World War II Type 22 pillbox.

MATERIALS: brick and concrete faced with flint and dressings of handmade red brick.

PLAN: the pillbox is located on the south-west corner of Abbey Farm garden, and it abuts the garden wall. It has a hexagonal plan.

EXTERIOR: the single-storey pillbox has a flat concrete roof and concrete lintels. The C20 brick walls are faced in flint rubble and have quoins of handmade red brick. Each face has a gun embrasure. It appears that the original design had a pitched roof in order to give the appearance of being a garden building or summerhouse but the flint rubble is crumbling away. There is a two-pointed relieving arch in handmade red brick over the entrance and, on the opposite face, the remains of another arch over the gun embrasure which gave the appearance of being a window surround.

INTERIOR: there is a thick concrete blast wall in a central position within the pillbox. Beneath each of the gun embrasures, there are supports for a shelf or ledge to rest on whilst firing a rifle or light machine gun.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: on the west side of the pillbox is the base of a spigot mortar* which has been displaced as it would normally be in a pit and surrounded by ammunition lockers.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the spigot mortar is not of special architectural or historic interest and is not included in the Listing. It is protected by virtue of being included in the scheduling of the priory.

History

The earliest examples of pillboxes date from the First World War, although this example, along with many thousands of others, was constructed as part of a national defence programme in response to the threat of German invasion in 1940. The programme involved strengthening coastal defences (batteries, mines and barbed wire), and constructing defensive lines, or 'stop lines', stretching inland in order to slow down the progress of an invading force. Pillboxes were built along these stop lines and at nodal points, such as towns and villages, military bases and munitions factories. They were usually built by local soldiers in various defensive locations and aimed to accommodate rifles or light machine guns. The War Office issued twelve standard pillbox designs but, in practice, many unofficial designs arose out of local considerations and preferences. Due to the inflexibility of their design and high cost compared to dug fieldworks, the deployment of pillboxes came under scrutiny in 1941 and the Home Office issued orders to stop building them in February 1942.

The pillbox at Bromholm Priory is a variant of the Type 22 pillbox. These are hexagonal in shape with walls around 30-60cm thick. The internal measurement between opposite walls is around 3m and usually there are rifle loops in five of the six walls and an entrance in the sixth. It is highly likely that the flint rubble and red brick used to camouflage the pillbox were salvaged from old priory or farm buildings on the site. Given the proximity of Bromholm Priory to the coast, it was heavily fortified during the Second World War. A gun emplacement was built into the ruin of the north transept and a loopholed wall was built to the north of the farmhouse. Various spigot mortar bases were also established around the site.

Bromholm Priory was founded by William de Glanville in 1113 as a Cluniac priory dedicated to St Andrew. It was initially subordinate to the Cluniac House at Castle Acre in Norfolk but was emancipated from its control in 1298. The rise of Bromholm Priory from a provincial monastery to a national pilgrimage site was due to its acquisition of a fragment of the True Cross in the early C13. Bromholm was dissolved in 1536 and little is known of its post-dissolution history. It became a farm possibly as early as the C17 and is currently under arable cultivation (2016).

Reasons for Listing

The World War II Type 22 pillbox at Bromholm Priory is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: it is an extant manifestation of the precautions taken to repel an invading force during the early stages of World War II;

* Architectural interest: it is an interesting example of a camouflaged defensive structure, and it is almost certain that the flint used as a facing material was salvaged from the priory ruins;

* Survival: whilst some of the flintwork has fallen away, the inner concrete and brick structure survives intact, and the plan form and function of the pillbox remains plainly legible;

* Group value: it has strong group value with the other fortifications which collectively represent a significant phase in the evolution of the scheduled Bromholm Priory.

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