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Pillbox at Filton Airfield

A Grade II Listed Building in Patchway, South Gloucestershire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5178 / 51°31'3"N

Longitude: -2.5809 / 2°34'51"W

OS Eastings: 359786

OS Northings: 180032

OS Grid: ST597800

Mapcode National: GBR JR.HMHH

Mapcode Global: VH88G.63XT

Entry Name: Pillbox at Filton Airfield

Listing Date: 5 March 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1416298

Location: Patchway, South Gloucestershire, BS34

County: South Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Patchway

Built-Up Area: Filton

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Henbury

Church of England Diocese: Bristol

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Summary

A non-standard pillbox of c.1940, constructed of brick and concrete, with an internal machine gun mounting.

Description

A non-standard Second World War pillbox, probably of 1940 date.

MATERIALS: constructed of brick, with concrete embrasures with iron shields, and a concrete roof.

PLAN: rectangular on plan with canted corners to the north east and south west, the building has a low projecting blast entry at the south-east corner. It is divided into two areas by a brick partition.

EXTERIOR: the pillbox has two rectangular embrasures to each side, at varying heights, with concrete lintels and cills. The brickwork around the south-east corner embrasure is partially collapsed revealing more of the iron shield. Both the main block and the attached blast entry have concrete roofs.

INTERIOR: at the north end is a brick pier supporting an iron, machine gun mounting set on a concrete plinth.

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. During the Second World War, pillboxes were built along the stop lines and at nodal points, such as towns and villages, military bases and munitions factories. Twelve basic designs were approved by the War Office, although these were often varied to accommodate local considerations. The pillbox at Filton stands on the southern edge of the former airfield and its plan does not conform to any of the 12 types. It was designed to have optimum views across the airstrip. Since 1910 the site had been the headquarters of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, one of Britain's first aircraft manufacturers. By the Second World War the company supplied engines for nearly half the world's airlines and more than half the world's air forces, and in the Second World War it provided a third of the RAF's engines. 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 airfield was decommissioned by the current owners BAE Systems in 2012.

Reasons for Listing

The Pillbox at Filton Airfield, South Gloucestershire is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: the pillbox is a rare example of a Second World War pillbox that does not conform to the standard types approved by the War Office. This particular design may be unique.
* Intactness: The pillbox is unaltered and largely complete, although the southeast embrasure is partially collapsed.
* Fittings: the pillbox retains its machine gun mounting and embrasure shields.
* Setting: the location has good views of the landing strip on Sir George White's pioneering Bristol Aircraft Company factory site of 1910, which produced important aircraft; it saw service in the Second World War.

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