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Section Post

A Grade II Listed Building in Downton, Wiltshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.989 / 50°59'20"N

Longitude: -1.7593 / 1°45'33"W

OS Eastings: 416993

OS Northings: 121092

OS Grid: SU169210

Mapcode National: GBR 528.S23

Mapcode Global: FRA 766H.GG6

Entry Name: Section Post

Listing Date: 30 January 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422818

Location: Downton, Wiltshire, SP5

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Downton

Built-Up Area: Downton

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Downton St Lawrence

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

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Summary

An anti-invasion section post of 1940/1.

Description

A military section post of 1940/1.

MATERIALS: constructed of red brick in English bond, and concrete.

PLAN: a west-facing chevron plan with two adjoining linear wings meeting at a central, forward-thrusting point. At the north-east end is the entrance accessed by steps down into the semi-sunken structure.

DESCRIPTION: an earthwork trench, revetted in brick to above ground level and roofed. To the east and south, the brick revetment walls are solid and extend by nine courses above ground level. To the north and west (front), between two and five courses of brick are visible and surmounted by concrete embrasures: 10 embrasures face west and one faces north. The front wall is 35.5cm thick (three bricks) and the embrasures are 59.5cm tall. At intervals, bricks in the second course of the front wall protrude by about half a brick in depth, possibly to help to anchor sandbag protection under the embrasures. The entrance in the rear (east) wall has triangular concrete slabs projecting to both sides of the door, providing blast walls at the access point. The roof is a 22cm thick cast-concrete slab. Fixed to the south-west end of the structure is a modern timber shelter*, which is not of special interest. Internally, there is a brick ledge below the embrasures and regularly-spaced protruding bricks in the rear wall, possibly to hang equipment. There is a recess in the upper part of the south wall. The floor appears to be solid cast concrete.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the attached timber shelter is not of special architectural or historic interest and not included in the listing.

History

Following the defeat at Dunkirk in May 1940, Britain was faced with the prospect of imminent invasion. To counter this danger, an anti-invasion plan was developed by General Sir Edmund Ironside, Commander-in-Chief Home Forces who created a series of static inland defence lines (‘stop lines’) which were largely in place by the end of the year. Natural features, such as rivers or railways, road embankments and escarpments together with extensive newly-dug ditches, were utilised with the intention of slowing enemy advances. Gun emplacements, anti-tank blocks on roads or railways together with concrete obstacles or excavated anti-tank ditches, minefields, infantry section posts, slit trenches and large numbers of pillboxes were built to support the stop lines and defended areas.

This infantry section post was built at some point between the summer of 1940 and 1941 (the use of brick, rather than the preferred concrete, could indicate that construction was towards the latter end of this period due to the increasingly limited resources of material as the war progressed). The defences at Downton, a key crossing point on the Avon, probably included road blocks, pillboxes and anti-tank obstacles. Downton formed part the Ringwood Stop Line centred on the River Avon between Christchurch and Salisbury. This 25 mile line was planned to have 98 pillboxes, 33 anti-tank road blocks, 17 bridge demolitions and 22 anti-tank gun emplacements, but it is not known how many of these were completed. The section post faces west, across the shallow valley, possibly to be used in the event of an enemy being forced off the main road from the south (A338), the most likely direction of attack. In the early stages, the section post was most likely manned by the regular army, to be replaced by the Home Guard, but most stop lines were abandoned during 1941.

The section post is thought to be the only defence structure from the Downton group to remain intact, and in 2014 its stands in its original location, now a back garden to a post-war dwelling. The land to the west was developed into housing in the mid-C20.

Reasons for Listing

The section post at Green Pastures, Downton, Wiltshire is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: in being part of a key Second World War military programme of inland defence works it provides a poignant visual reminder of the impact of world events on the village of Downton and the wider landscape of the Southern Command defence area;
* Rarity: section posts are extremely rare. This particular design, with protruding brick features and tall embrasures may be unique;
* Intactness: it is unaltered and complete.

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