Record Details

NHER Number:18472
Type of record:Monument
Name:Happisburgh 4.7 inch coastal battery and Cold War Royal Observer Corps site


The remains of a World War Two 4.7 inch Coastal Battery including two gun houses with underground rooms, a pillbox and spigot mortar pedestals survive at this location. These structures, a battery observation post, artillery searchlights, buildings and barbed wire obstructions are visible on aerial photographs taken during the 1940s. During the Cold War the Royal Observer Corps used the site and a (now demolished) orlit post was built.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 3746 3163
Map Sheet:TG33SE

Full description

October 1982. Visit.
Defensive position. Polygonal brick pillbox with Royal Observer Corps concrete observation post mounted on roof.
Brick staircase hood to underground complex of concrete rooms, now flooded. Two large brick observation posts, now being reused by Decca. Northwest of large white tower marked on 6in Ordnance Survey (S1) as 'disused lookout station' - not wartime.
Three mortar posts, uprooted, stand against walls. Pile of concrete from a demolished building?
E. Rose (NAU), 27 October 1982.

The underground rooms were added after 1953.
This was a gun battery; for description see (S2).
With regard to the pillbox [1] notes; type 22, common, original door blocked. Form (S2) in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 9 April 1997.

See record form (S2) in file by source [1], who adds: Unique 1940 Coastal Battery - MUST BE SAVED.
Common 1940 spigot mortar gun emplacement lying behind left hand gun house, obviously moved from original position.
Common, 1940 spigot mortar gun emplacement lying behind eastern gun house.
D. Walker (NLA), August 1996.

There was also a Cold War Royal Observer Corps station, 1960 to 1968 at the rear of the complex near the coast guard look out. Now demolished, the top of the rubble filled shaft is in a bush behind the northern gunhouse, also remains of a fallen Orlit. See (S3).
E. Rose (NLA), July 2000.

Also see (S4).

September 2004. Norfolk NMP.
World War Two coastal 4.7 inch gun battery and associated defences are visible on contemporary and later aerial photographs ((S5) to (S12)). The central grid reference has been altered form TG 3750 3170 to TG 3750 3175 which marks the centre of the battery itself. This battery was constructed in late 1940 to replace the 6 inch gun battery to the southeast of Happisburgh village (NHER 32636) (S4). All features described below are visible on 1941 aerial photographs unless otherwise stated.
Two extant rectangular gun houses are located either side of the central grid reference. An oblique aerial photograph dating from 1941 shows that these were camouflaged with thatched roofs to disguise them as haystacks (S7). In between the gun houses was a low square structure, with a seaward facing observation slit. A two storey structure positioned to the southeast of the gun houses at TG 37595 31665 was probably the battery observation post and was disguised as a civilian building. The battery's two coast artillery searchlights were positioned in concrete housings at TG 37280 32010 and TG 37675 31645. These were recessed into the cliff top with a channel leading for up to 10m to the cliff edge (S8). At the landward end of the channel there appears to have been a structure, presumably housing the searchlight when it was not in use. The southeastern searchlight housing was partly camouflaged with an earth bank or netting. Other buildings associated with the gun battery were located along field boundaries to its south around TG 3739 3164.

The battery was surrounded by a rectangular barbed wire enclosure which extend from the cliff top for up to 80m inland between TG 37430 31870 and TG 37640 31690. An outer barbed wire circuit included the searchlights and ancillary buildings. This formed an irregular polygon meeting the cliff top at TG 37240 32040 and TG 37700 31640 and extending for up to 300m inland. The outer circuit was defended with three hexagonal type 27 pillboxes, one of which survives at the former road entrance to the site (NHER 16972). The other two were located at TG 37290 31900 and TG 37670 31435. A type 22 pillbox, which still survives, was located to the rear of the gun houses at TG 37450 31735. Weapons pits and other small gun emplacements were located inside and around the barbed wire perimeter. The original positions of the spigot mortar pedestals which survive at the site is not clear. By 1943 additional lines of barbed wire had been placed at TG 37670 31360, TG 37590 31580, TG 37700 31550 and that along the southwest perimeter replaced by a new line which curved around the extant pillbox (S9). A 50m long slit trench had also been constructed to the southeast of the southeastern gun house by that date. By 1946 new barbed wire had been placed in a curving line along the cliff top, presumably to replace earlier lines lost to erosion. Two additional lines of barbed wire had also been placed 40m to the northwest and southeast of the gun houses extending back from the cliff top. Extant remains are limited to a small area around the gun houses ((S11) to (S12)).
J. Albone (NMP), 9 September 2004.

December 2004. Norfolk Rapid Coastal Zone Archaeological Survey.
Land-based survey; Area A52, Context 23:
The site was monitored, with the condition of the two brick rectangular gun houses (with underground rooms and gun mounts), the surviving pillbox, three spigot mortar pedestals and mounds of rubble and earth noted.
See assessment report (S13) for further details.
The associated archive has been deposited with the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 2017.421).
D. Robertson (NLA), 22 February 2006. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 20 July 2019.

Monument Types

  • BARBED WIRE OBSTRUCTION (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BATTERY OBSERVATION POST (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • COAST ARTILLERY SEARCHLIGHT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • COASTAL BATTERY (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • GUN EMPLACEMENT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY BUILDING (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PEDESTAL (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX (TYPE FW3/22) (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX (TYPE FW3/27) (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • SLIT TRENCH (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • SPIGOT MORTAR EMPLACEMENT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • WEAPONS PIT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • ORLIT POST (Mid 20th Century to Late 20th Century - 1960 AD to 1968 AD)
  • ROYAL OBSERVER CORPS MONITORING POST (Mid 20th Century to Late 20th Century - 1960 AD to 1968 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: Kent, P.. 1995. KHH 23A.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Map: Ordnance Survey, First Edition, 6 Inch. 1879-1886. Ordnance Survey 1st Edition 6 inch map..
<S2>Recording Form: [various]. Norfolk Defensive Structures Survey Recording Form. Norfolk Defensive Structures Survey.
<S3>Article in Serial: Catford, N.. 1999. ROC Underground Posts in Norfolk.. NIAS Journal. pp 59ff.
<S4>Article in Serial: Bird, C.. 1992. The Fixed Defences of North and East Norfolk in the Two World Wars. Part II.. NIAS Journal. Vol 5, no 2.
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1941. RAF S/330 6-8 16-JUL-1941 (NMR).
<S6>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1941. RAF S/358 1-3 30-JUL-1941 (NMR).
<S7>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1941. NMR TG 3731/14-7 (MSO 31255 S378/H50 54-7) 07-AUG-1941.
<S8>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1941. NMR TG 3732/2 (MSO 31255 S378/H50 58) 07-AUG-1941.
<S9>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1943. RAF AC/161 5101-2 04-JAN-1943 (NMR).
<S10>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 3103-4 09-JUL-1946 (Norfolk SMR TG 3732A-B).
<S11>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1992. NHER TG 3731F-G (NLA 302/GJV1-2) 03-JUN-1992.
<S12>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. NHER TG 3731J-K (NLA 365/JFF12-3) 28-JUN-1996.
<S13>Unpublished Contractor Report: Robertson, D., Crawley, P., Barker, A., and Whitmore, S. 2005. Norfolk Rapid Coastal Zone Archaeological Survey. Assessment Report and Updated Project Design. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 1045. p 133; Fig 59.

Related records - none

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