Somerset Coastal Defences Survey
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The Project

The survey itself was undertaken in 2002 as an attempt to use archaeological fieldwork to record the remains of the Second World War defences along Somerset's coast between Porlock Weir and Watchet. This fieldwork located sites which had been recorded in the Somerset Historic Environment Record (HER) and allowed the remains to be surveyed in some detail. Once located, the sites were surveyed both by measuring external, and, where possible, internal, dimensions and by taking scaled photographs of the structure itself and its relationship with other features nearby.

The differences between the sites in 1994 when the HER records were compiled and the state they were found in during in the course of the 2002 fieldwork showed how the eight intervening years had affected the preservation of the structures. In the majority of cases the fabric of the buildings themselves had decayed, especially in those that were made of materials such as cob. In other examples entrances and loopholes had been filled in or blocked off to prevent public access. In relatively few places the structures had disintegrated altogether due to the action of the sea or subsidence of the beach. This survey did identify several pillboxes not recorded in the HER and it shed light on the wide variety of construction methods used in the defences of this area. The structures surveyed were generally built to the War Office’s designs but using materials such as beach pebbles, concrete-filled sandbags and even cob in a concrete frame. The survey also enabled the positioning of the structures in defensive units to be studied. In most cases they were grouped in threes or stretched in a line along a beach with a second line slightly inland covering the railway.