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Cantilevered pillbox beside Rampton Road, Longstanton

A Grade II Listed Building in Longstanton, Cambridgeshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.2799 / 52°16'47"N

Longitude: 0.0533 / 0°3'11"E

OS Eastings: 540170

OS Northings: 266629

OS Grid: TL401666

Mapcode National: GBR L6F.28Z

Mapcode Global: VHHJN.WY0K

Entry Name: Cantilevered pillbox beside Rampton Road, Longstanton

Listing Date: 1 December 2011

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1404994

Location: Longstanton, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire, CB24

County: Cambridgeshire

District: South Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Longstanton

Built-Up Area: Longstanton

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Longstanton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Ely

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Summary

A cantilevered pillbox on the north side of Rampton Road, constructed in 1941as part of the airfield defences for the former Bomber Command base at RAF Oakington.

Description

MATERIALS: Reinforced concrete and London Brick Company Phorpres bricks.

PLAN: Circular and partially subterranean, the structure was designed to be covered with earthworks to prevent detection from the ground and air.

EXTERIOR: The pillbox is approximately 5.5m in diameter and has a reinforced concrete, disc-shaped roof supported at its centre by a substantial, brick cruciform-shaped, anti-ricochet wall. Around the perimeter is a brick and concrete composite, subterranean curtain wall that finishes approximately 30cms below the outside lip of the roof, thus giving an open observation and firing slit around the entire structure. The traversed, brick entrances are stepped to the interior.

INTERIOR: The central anti-ricochet wall supports the roof, allowing easy access around the circumference. A 5cm tubular steel rail is fixed to the inside of the curtain wall around which machine-gun turnbulls could slide and be locked in any position.

History

RAF Oakington was an expansion period aerodrome constructed in 1939 and placed under Bomber Command during World War II. From 1950 it was part of Training Command before being transferred to the army in 1975 and then used as an immigration reception centre between 1999 and 2010. The watch tower and some of the airfield defence structures such as the battle headquarters, command posts and later ROC post were demolished by the army. Many of the station buildings have been demolished recently in advance of redevelopment.

The cantilevered pillboxes were designed as a private venture by F C Construction Co. Ltd. of Derby, one of the main designers and contractors of reinforced concrete in the midlands. The company designed a circular pillbox of with 360 degrees field of view and a disc-shaped roof. A total of 61 were recorded nationwide under the Monuments Protection Programme, at least nine of which have been destroyed. Ten were built at RAF Oakington in 1941 when the hard runways were laid. (Those eight in the airfield and the isolated pillbox on Wilson's Road are considered as two separate cases). Designed to be covered by earthworks to prevent detection from the air and ground, five of the pillboxes (nos. 443 to 446 and 462) protected both the railway line between Cambridge and St Ives (now the Cambridge guided busway) and the airfield. No. 449 defended the southern dispersals, part of the runway and the now demolished battle headquarters and nos. 454 and 455 protected a command post, which is no longer extant. Two defended the western approaches to the airfield. Six of the pillboxes (nos. 439, 443, 444, 445, 449 and 455) remain intact, although no. 445 is entirely overgrown. Nos. 446, 454, 461 and 462 have been altered.

Pillbox no. 439 defended the entrance to the airbase from the main western approach, Rampton Road. It has recently been cleared of undergrowth and is intact.

Reasons for Listing

The Oakington pillbox no. 439 to the north of Rampton Road, Longstanton, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural Interest: The pillbox is unusual and innovative in design and is sophisticated in the use of a concrete, cantilevered roof.
* Rarity: Only 53 examples of this pillbox are thought to remain. The Oakington group, of which pillbox no. 439 is a part, is the largest to survive and is the type-site for this form of pillbox.
* Intactness: This pillbox is largely intact.
* Interior: It retains its internal gun rails, which adds to the interest of the structure.
* Group value: This pillbox has group value with eight others surrounding the former flying field which are also recommended for listing.

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