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Report - North weald Redoubt, Essex - December 2014

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by slayaaaa, Dec 21, 2014.

  1. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    Intro

    So this is more of a bump on the site, it's so those new to UE in the surrounding area (Essex, London) can see this is easily doable and great to show us you're genuine rather than just straight away asking to meet up with people, requesting access etc. We want to see your pics too! :) Contributing to the site will help you get more from it. :thumb

    Hope everyone enjoys it, despite the blandness of it. :p:


    What's a redoubt?

    Thought I'd add this in as I didn't know what one was either before hand.

    Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redoubt


    History of Northweald Redoubt

    13 Mobilisation Centres were built between 1889 and 1903 as part of the London Defence Scheme. These were not planned as forts although some of them would have been armed on mobilisation. Their main function was as a store for guns, small arms ammunition, tools and other equipment required for the batteries and infantry allocated for the defence of the neighbourhood in the event of a foreign invasion. The casemates could also be used as barrack accommodation.

    [​IMG]

    The North Weald Redoubt was the first of the mobilisation centres to be constructed and the only fortified centre north of the Thames. It was located on high ground to the south of North Weald Bassett and faced north east with good command of the ground to its front and sides. It was described in 1903 as "situated on a commanding knoll" and that "from mile 17 to 19 the road is commanded by North Weald Fort; a distance about 2 miles east"

    Although based on the Twydall profile (an experimental project at Twydall, near Chatham, in which low profile earthwork defences replaced the permanent ditch and rampart defences of a few decades earlier with a resultant low profile), its location was given away by being positioned on a high point. In plan the rampart was roughly semicircular in shape some 500 feet across. In the ditch at the foot of the rampart was an 8 foot high unclimbable or Dacoit steel fence that terminated at each end of the gorge casemates. Behind the rampart, in an arc, were three magazines for cartridges and shells, with shafts to supply the guns above. The flat concrete roof above the magazines was made thicker than that of the adjacent chambers and unusually, not earth covered. No reinforcement to the concrete can be seen so, if the roofs are reinforced, this must be within the thickness of the concrete. All three cartridge stores were entered through shifting lobbies and illuminated by lamps placed in recesses from the adjacent chambers. The lamps for these were kept in a centrally placed lamp room. Between the magazines were two pairs of gun casemates (to shelter the guns in) flanked by two pairs of artillery general stores. It is recorded that doors were never provided to these gun casemates though hinge hooks were fitted to take them.

    One cartridge store appears to have had a problem with damp as a gully runs along the rear of the chamber discharging through the wall to the shifting lobby entrance. This opening was covered by a small grill identical to those for the vents to the lamp recesses.

    Also here, dividing the above into three blocks, were the entrances to two tunnels that passed through the rampart and emerged in two hollows in its forward. These hollows and others each side of them, formed a discontinuous secondary rampart or 'fausse-braye'. Manned by riflemen, they would have allowed the parapet to be kept clear for the artillery that the fort was designed to mount. This arrangement was advantageous for the troops manning them as their heads would not be silhouetted against the skyline. So these hollows would not flood in heavy rain, each was provided with a drain. Some thought went into the design of the tunnels, the thickness of the concrete roofs increased in steps towards the outer end, as the thickness of the earth cover above decreased.

    At the rear, a dry ditch closed off entry to the site. The ditch scarp was formed by a row of casemates with a parados above.

    These casemates were used to store the tools and other equipment to aid construct of the defence position. A pair of doors to one of these casemates, with the inscription "Shell Store No 2' would suggest that shells may have been stored in these gorge casemates. If shells were stored here, they would have been for the external batteries, the shell stores inside the work supplying the guns on the rampart only. To allow easy removal of the contents of the gorge casemates, two ramps entered the longer section of ditch, one at each end. This would have allowed wagons to enter down one, load and exit by the other. When emptied, the casemates were to form a somewhat Spartan accommodation for 72 soldiers.

    The ditch was defended by rifle fire from a caponier and loopholes in the steel doors of the gorge casemates. To prevent the caponier being rushed there was a V shaped drop ditch each side of it. Individual smoke vents were provided above the loopholes in the doors, with larger louvered ones serving the caponier.

    Entrance to the Redoubt was over the top of the caponier, the roof of it doubling as a road. Two concrete pillars held gates to block passage to the interior in event of attack. The gates were of the same style as the unclimbable fence around the site and contained a wicket gate.

    No emplacements were provided for artillery, they would have been dug, on mobilisation, in the six promontories in the rampart. During a bombardment the guns would have been sheltered in the gun casemates until needed. It is not known what the armament of the Redoubt was intended to be, probably, it was not intended for any specific gun, rather it was intended to accommodate any of the likely candidates at the time. In the event it would have been 2O pounder R.B.L. (Rifled breech loader) Armstrong's (later replaced with 15pounder BL's), with which the Volunteer Artillery allocated to this position were equipped at the time. A number of factors about the redoubt's design suggest that four guns would have been emplaced in the central positions with a quick firing or machine gun in each flank position.

    Rainwater was collected in six cast-iron cisterns and two concrete tanks, one set into the parados and the other in the counterscarp of the ditch. The total capacity of these was 6217 gallons. To the rear were the caretakers cottages, one contemporary with the Redoubt and the second added three years later, both of different designs. North Weald was unusual in this respect, elsewhere accommodation was provided for two caretakers from the outset in semi detached accommodation.

    In 1903/04 shell and cartridge stores holding 7,200 x 4.7-inch shells and cartridges respectively were built at the rear, to the side of the caretakers cottages. These buildings were to provide increased ammunition storage capacity needed when the Volunteer Artillery re-equipped with 4.7 inch and 1 5pounder BL Guns. Rainwater was collected from their roofs in an additional 5,000 gallon underground tank.

    There was also an intention to build a tent and blanket store between the cottages and the ammunition stores. Currently there is a much altered building on this site, but it is not clear if this was a later addition.

    North Weald was also to have housed the ammunition for the adjacent Kelvedon Hatch sector, which did not have a mobilisation centre of its own.

    When the London Defence Scheme was abandoned in 1906, the Redoubt was retained as an ammunition store. In World War I the line of the London Defence Positions was reactivated as the inner stop line to resist a German invasion, though continuing on to Broxbourne rather than stopping at Epping as previously.

    The Marconi Co. brought the site and the surrounding land in 1920 and set up the Ongar Radio Station. Control of the site then passed in turn to the Imperial & International Communication Company, Cable & Wireless, the Post Office, British Telecom and, following its sale by British Telecom in 1995, to property developers.

    During World War II, because of the importance of the radio station, it was classed as a Vulnerable Point. Special VP Troops were stationed there to protect it and two Allen Williams Turrets were installed, one on each flank. One former cartridge magazine was used as a dressing station, a faded red cross and the words 'First Aid' can be made out on the wail of the former shifting lobby.

    The Redoubt is a scheduled ancient monument and while surviving remarkably intact down the years thanks to its previous owners, who maintained it to a large degree, the redoubt now stands empty and subject to the attention of vandals, both official and otherwise. Considerable damage has now been done, mainly to the caretakers cottages and external ammunition stores. The 'dry' ditch at the rear is now often wet due to a blocked drain, flooding the gorge casemates to their long term detriment.

    It was hoped that some restoration would be done, probably as a 'sweetener' for the proposed redevelopment of the former radio station site by the new owners. The former radio station buildings were demolished after a fire in 1997 leaving the Redoubt and ancillary buildings standing. A new fences has been installed around the Redoubt but this has already been breeched and the site still open to local vandals and other casual visitors.

    (http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/n/north_weald_ mobilisation_centre/index4.shtml)


    Present site

    The site has suffered a lot of flooding and the water levels have slowly crept higher and higher, I'll go back in the summer with wadorz. :p:

    The radio station has just fallen into an awful state or derp.

    The turrets have been defaced with poor graf and the trees have taken over.

    All is not lost, the concrete looks pretty strong and if tanked, I'm sure this place would make something fun, airsoft? playground? house? :D

    It is listed but little has been done to keep it in any kind of fit state, which is obviously a shame. I'd love to have one of those turrets, such a shame they've been left to rot, 2 of only 33 remaining in the world I believe.


    Future

    Despite being listed and having some important member of North weald warn trespassers to stop trespassing on the land, nothing has been done to secure the site, preserve it or re-use it.

    English heritage: http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1018456

    This was proposed in 2009: (http://rds.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=18374&Opt=3)


    The visit

    Wanted to get out for an hour or two locally with my new fisheye, found this, then we were in North weald.

    Visited with a non member, been with me a few times and had a good laugh, the place looks a bit crap, but with a few friends I reckon it'll make for a good little visit!

    Access was easy, no security, Landies zoomed passed and really didn't bat an eye lid, so did dog walkers. Got a few pics then we were off home. :thumb

    As I say, if you're new, not sure if you like UE, or just bored. Give it a shot, share a few pics and who knows, maybe you'll make some friends and visit a few other sites. :)


    The pictures

    New camera, 2 lenses

    Nice and wide

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Loved these turrets, thought they were nice and small, looked great

    [​IMG]

    More wide curves

    [​IMG]

    Ongar radio, not that interesting

    [​IMG]

    Bridge

    [​IMG]

    Mono window

    [​IMG]

    Nice bit of warm evening sun

    [​IMG]

    Snazzy shoe now looking not so snazzy

    [​IMG]

    Reflections and stuff

    [​IMG]

    The mast

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Cheers for looking! :)

    [​IMG]


     
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  2. The Wombat

    The Wombat Mr Wombat
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    Excellent photos mate :thumb
     
  3. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    Cheers mate. :)
     
  4. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    Cheers mate. :)
     
  5. huey

    huey 28DL Regular User
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    Spot on pics as usual,nice idea and great report. :thumb
     
  6. newage

    newage 28DL Full Member
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    Cracking pictures, can't believe how flooded it is, I went there 6 odd years ago and you could walk in to every part of the site, also the radio station was not so smashed up.
    Did you find the second AW turret?

    Cheers newage
     
  7. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    Yeah man, got in both Allen William turrets. The other was flooded and had a but more graf on it which is a real shame. We'll return with some wellys/waders in the summer and get in those tunnels. :) Wasn't too bad an explore to be honest.
     
  8. Ordnance

    Ordnance Moderator
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    I think a site survey needs to be carried out by English Heritage paying attention to the out dry ditch and drain ways, as I feel they are blocked or have collapsed, since being a hill top site with good drainage in its day and above the water table?, this would account for the currant flooding.
     
  9. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    I agree. Real shame it is flooded. Apparently it used to drain away after a dry spell, but I think that may not be true any more. The water has clearly rested there for a while. A real shame as I assume it can't be doing much good on this site.
     
  10. caiman

    caiman 28DL Full Member
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    It was completely dry when I was there a few years ago, but that was a dry summer. There's a lot more to this site around the back, but again needs to be dry for a visit.
     
  11. Ordnance

    Ordnance Moderator
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    I have a small culvert at the rear of my property which drains away the roof drains of the row of houses as they are not connected to the drains. a few years ago it became clogged up with branches blown of nearby trees and combined with leaves and plastic shopping bags started to slow down the flow. This is a mild example of how neglect starts to set in in a very short span of time, and at the North Weald Redoubt young sapling no doubt are growing in the ditches, helping to form blockages.
     
  12. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    Cheers for that Ordnance, hopefully someone gives it some care. It's an interesting structure and It's amazing it's even in the state it's in now. It's been through a lot and survived quite a bit. Amazing how they built things like this. :thumb
     
  13. Raz

    Raz 28DL Regular User
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    Nice report mate some good pics there:):thumb
     
  14. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    Cheers man, been loving your stuff recently. :thumb
     
  15. Ellie Warwick

    Ellie Warwick 28DL Member
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    Hello, i'm thinking about doing a photography shoot here for my assignment. Just a quick question, did you tresspass or do you have to ask someone for permission to enter the site? Or is there any fences to stop you from tresspassing?
     
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