Record Details

NHER Number:42120
Type of record:Monument
Name:World War Two military defences and installations


A World War Two military site, comprising coastal defences such as lines of barbed wire, anti-tank ditches, a minefield, several probable pillboxes and other defensive structures, as well as ancillary structures such as huts and possibly tents, is visible as a group of buildings, structures and earthworks on aerial photographs dating from 1940 onwards. The site stretched across a large expanse of Horsey dunes and beach, encompassing an area stretching from the inter-tidal zone into rough grassland approximately 325m inland. Most of the structures associated with the site lay towards its seaward side, along a track separating the dunes from the grassland further inland. A pre-existing building (since demolished) which lay behind the main cluster of structures may have been utilised by military personnel at the site. It should be noted that the line of defences continued along the coast to the northwest (e.g. NHER 42104) and southeast (NHER 42182) and that consequently the division of these defences into discrete sites is somewhat arbitrary.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 4721 2341
Map Sheet:TG42SE

Full description

November 2005. Norfolk NMP.
A World War Two military site comprising coastal defences and ancillary structures is visible as a group of buildings, structures and earthworks on 1940s and later aerial photographs (S1), (S2), (S3), (S4) and (S5), between TG 4681 2385 and TG 4760 2298. It formed part of a continuous line of defences stretching along the coastline, recorded, for example, as NHER 42104 to the northwest and NHER 42182 to the southeast. The division of these defences into discrete archaeological sites is consequently somewhat arbitrary; the site described here comprises those defences and ancillary installations visible either side of a track leading from Horsey village. It should be noted that many of the mapped features were not clearly visible on the rectified aerial photographs, and that rectification of the seaward side of the site was poor due to a lack of suitable control points. The location and plan of some elements, therefore, must be regarded as approximate.

The majority of the mapped structures and earthworks are only visible on aerial photographs taken in 1940 (S1), (S2), (S3) and (S4), suggesting that they were mainly temporary installations removed or levelled before or soon after the end of the war. The most clearly visible element of the site visible at this date was a minefield, the extent of which has been mapped by the NMP (from TG 4681 2385 to TG 4720 2324). A possible polygonal pillbox is visible within its northwest end (at TG 4683 2383). Beyond the track from Horsey, the minefield continues to the southeast, where it is recorded as NHER 42182. Craters left by the removal and/or detonation of mines are visible as earthworks on aerial photographs taken from 1945 onwards, e.g. (S5). Behind the minefield, at its southeast end, a small building, depicted on the Ordnance Survey 1st edition 6 inch map (S6) and still standing in 1940, may have been utilised by military personnel at the site. This may explain the disturbed ground visible around it. A block of disturbed ground visible to the northeast (centred at TG 4717 2322) may have been created by turf removal, perhaps for use in camouflaging military structures, or by cultivation. Further along the track to the northeast (at TG 4724 2331) a freshly cut pit may have been a borrow pit for sand used in building military structures or filling sandbags, etc; it has since been levelled.

On the seaward side of the minefield, various small structures are visible between the mined area and the sea wall. At the northwest end of the site, the sea wall or embankment appears to have been landscaped or at least been cleared of vegetation. For the most part the structures are not visible clearly enough for their function to be determined. Some may be defensive structures such as gun emplacements or pillboxes; others are probably ancillary huts and tents. Most are clustered in an area between TG 4715 2351 and TG 4743 2319, which coincides with an area of disturbed ground (presumably caused by military activity) the extent of which has been mapped. A polygonal pillbox at TG 4731 2334 is almost certainly a Type 22 pillbox. It was still visible as an extant structure on 1950s aerial photographs, e.g. (S5) and may remain buried in the dunes. At TG 4715 2348 two structures are visible. The rectangular structure to the southwest is sunken and covered by earth or turf, perhaps for camouflage or protection against aerial attack. The indistinct shape of the upstanding structure to the northeast suggests that it was also camouflaged, perhaps by nets. Structures of some type are also visible at TG 2724 2341, TG 4733 2329 and TG 4755 2301 but they are too indistinct to map individually and only their approximate extent has been recorded. A slit trench, subsequently levelled, is visible at TG 4751 2309.

On the beach itself, discrete barriers of barbed wire are visible at TG 4728 2340 and TG 4757 2305, part of a line of similar ‘compounds’ erected along this stretch of coast by 1940 (compare NHER 42129 and 42130 to the southeast, for example). These were replaced by a continuous line of beach scaffolding by 1945 (recorded as NHER 42105). Between TG 4762 2302 and TG 4719 2355, trenches were dug along the line of six groynes. These have been mapped as they could have served a military function, as anti tank obstructions, for example, but it is possible that they relate to efforts to prevent coastal erosion. The two westernmost of these trenches connect to a longer trench running parallel to the coastline (between TG 4732 2335 and TG 4696 2377). This also might be part of a defence against coastal erosion (or at least the construction of such a defence) but could instead be an anti-tank defence. Mounds of spoil, presumably derived from its excavation, are visible between TG 4718 2352 and TG 4726 2344. All of these earthworks have since been levelled. Structures are visible on the seaward side of the long trench on 1940 vertical aerial photographs (S1) at TG 4705 2368; further possible structures are visible on oblique aerial photographs from the same year (S4) at approximately TG 4696 2377 but are were too indistinct to map individually.

By 1945 (S7) little remains visible at the site, indicating that most of the installations were removed or levelled during or immediately after the war. Only the Type 22 pillbox and minefield craters (described above) are visible on post-war aerial photographs. It is possible, however, that other elements of the site might also have survived but are obscured by vegetation or accumulated sand.
S. Tremlett (NMP), 22 November 2005.

Monument Types

  • SEA DEFENCES? (Early 20th Century to 21st Century - 1901 AD to 2100 AD)
  • ANTI TANK DITCH? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BARBED WIRE OBSTRUCTION (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BEACH DEFENCE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • EXTRACTIVE PIT? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY BUILDING (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MINEFIELD (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX (TYPE FW3/22) (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PIT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • SAND PIT? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • SLIT TRENCH (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • TANK TRAP? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • TRENCH (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

<S1>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1940. RAF 2A/BR190 (V) 68-71 18-AUG-1940 (NMR).
<S2>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1940. NMR TG 4722/3 (MSO 31022 26/BR14/15 4823) 19-SEP-1940.
<S3>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1940. NMR TG 4723/1 (MSO 31022 26/BR14/15 4824) 19-SEP-1940.
<S4>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1940. NMR TG 4623/1-2 (MSO 31022 26/BR14/15 4825-6) 19-SEP-1940.
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1952. RAF 540/690 5005-6 11-MAR-1952 (NMR).
<S6>Map: Ordnance Survey. 1889 - 1891. Ordnance Survey first edition 6 inch map.. 1:10,560.
<S7>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1945. RAF 106G/UK/859 3117-8 29-SEP-1945 (NMR).

Related records - none

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