Sussex Military Research Projects

Pillbox foundation excavation

Project ID: SMR1027

Location: Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex

Project date: 2016



Project Overview: Cuckmere Haven

Working with the authorities, excavations were conducted at a number of sites in the valley, including pillboxes and anti-tank obstacles.

Description: Partial excavation of a pillbox foundation visible as a parch mark near the A259 at Cuckmere Haven.

Type 24 pillbox

In 1940 a Type 24 pillbox was built facing down the Cuckmere Valley towards the coast. The structure is seen in a 1947 photograph but was probably demolished not long after. In hot summers, a parch mark appeared whenever the grass was cut short, indicating that the foundation might still be extant under the turf. The parch mark was particularly distinct in the summer of 2011.

Permission was granted to excavate the area in 2016 on condition that each piece of uplifted turf was to be replaced in exactly the same position during reinstatement of the site.

A two-day excavation was undertaken with a small team of volunteers from Sussex Military History Society. It was quickly established that the concrete foundation slab was extant. Unfortunately, time constraints did not permit the entire foundation to be cleaned off, but almost two thirds were exposed.

Evidence of the lines of brick shuttering and anti-ricochet wall were identified on the slab, indicating that the pillbox just sat on the foundation and was not tied in with reinforcing bars. This is perhaps why the foundation survives; the pillbox could easily be bulldozed off and broken up, and burying the foundation was a simple way to reinstate the landscape.

A pair of footprints made during construction was also identified, presumably left by one of the builders. Small pieces of rubble were uncovered, including pieces of the brick shuttering and concrete.

The site was reinstated by relaying the turf and watering it over the following days to enable it to bed back into the ground.

Photograph gallery