Monday 26 March 2012

Pillboxes along the Thames

This blog has now been updated to show all the pillboxes between Pangbourn and Abingdon
How does one start on this epic journey like this which I spent a couple of years compiling, this along with other areas I have plotted on the Google Maps so the route can be followed on there.
  The Pillboxes ranged from Pangbourne to Abingdon at least that is what I thought but looking into it they went further up and were part of which I found out was the Red line. Part of a defence line built to stave off invasion should it have occurred.  I had decided to try and find what was left after I noticed some road blocks in the village I live in had been demolished. I had thought at first it would just be a few photos but it turned out into a bit of a marathon which I have yet to finish.
I will start the journey at Pangbourne beside Whitchuch Weir. There is another pillbox on the otherside of Witchurch Bridge set back near the railway which starts Sulham Valley defence line (more of that on another Blog) On the Downstream side used to be a pillbox which has been demolished. Going upstream to the weir and a little way along you can see a pillbox of the Type22 verity sat under a tree.
This photo was taken in the winter and lucky at the time no boats were in front of it, normally it is hidden behind overhanging trees and boats

 Along from there about half a mile sits another that can just be made out on the trees. I have not been able visit these two.
  From there you W
walk on along the towpath towards Lower Basildon and on the right beside the Child Beal Trust is Hartslock Island. 

 On one end is a gun pit which is sloping towards the river and filled with silt due to flooding, this is easy to see from the path but a friend of mine stopped off at the island and took some photos for me, the side you cannot see is washed away by the river over time

the inside full of silt due to the flooding

 The opposite end used to have a Type 22 Pillbox which was either not finished or demolished after the war. The base is the though badly cracked and eroded and there is Rebar protruding for the walls. I'm thinking that it was never built in the first place

Further along the Thames Path you will walk by this one in Hartslock wood
which is a rather nice type 22 set in the bank. The pillbox is in good condition though as the entrance is in the back it is getting filled with debris of leaves and soil through erosion of the bank.

  Walk onto Gatehampton viaduct and as you reach it you can see another type22 which is at the base of the rail embankment. Take care it is filling with stones and the anglers use it as a shithouse and It is not the most pleasant of ones to venture inside

What you cannot see from here is the gun emplacement that was built onto the rail viaduct

  You can see this from a train and from underneath. It still had the holdfast studs protruding. I could not go on the railway but did manage to get this photo from below

Nearby is a small hut that looks like it could have been a home guard hut

Walking on towards Goring you pass an island which until recently was overgrown with willows, over the winter they have been pollarded and now reveal a type22.I used to see this while going pass on the bus to school, during the winter it gets flooded

Going on from here and just before the bridge at Goring you can spy another type22 in a garden but was well over grown but was cut back to reveal the pillbox, I still have to ask the owner if a visit is possible.
On the other side beside the weir stood another type 22 I can remember but in recent years when the weir was refurbished it was removed.
Now you need to get back on the path towards Moulsford before the next pillbox. On the way you pass Cleeve and Runsford hole where two more pillboxes are marked on the DOB, both these do not exist, one may have and was supposedly buried in the garden of a house but I do need to confirm this.

As you get to Moulsford there used to be another pillbox which I am assuming was removed when the new water or gas main went through. As you get into Moulsford near the Beetle and Wedge you can see a Type22 in a front garden.

Carry on along the Thames path till you reach the Moulsford Viaduct or Four Arches as it is locally known, Look across the river and you can see a type22, this is messy inside but in good condition it is also on the rail embankment. You can reach this one by walking along the Ridgeway path

Walk through the arch and as you come out on the left is a fence, if you look through carefully you can see a pillbox in the shrubbery. It is built as the base of the embankment and the fence stops you seeing it as  Network rail placed one at the base of the embankment. I do not advise you trying to climb the fence It is a type22and I have been inside. The outside is covered in shrubbery  but the inside was very clean as if someone took the trouble to clean it out.

There is a gunpit further towards Moulsford Bridge built on the end of the old Moulsford station, it is behind a fence on the right side of the Network rail one. It’s been filled in with soil but was open once as my mate used to play in it as a kid.

Back to the path and you will come across a type22 under a tree partly sunk. This was the one I used to play in as a kid, then it was fully exposed but over the years soil has been built up round it from waste dumped they by Fairmile hospital. The pillbox has also been partly bricked up now for use as a bat roost. As you walk along from the pillbox in the Ferry lane direction remember what you walk on to the bank is the waste from successive years of Fairmile from Victorian times to when it closed in 2003

Just along from the bank is a boathouse and almost opposite is a Type 22 in the garden on the Littlestoke side of the river.

Head on along the bank towards Wallingford and as you get to a bend in the river (second field) if you look to the right on the opposite side of the Thames you can see the North Stoke pillbox (not so easy in summer). This one is sandy inside from silt and tilting slightly due to erosion of the bank.

Since I first saw the pillbox the landowner had now fixed the bank and cleared the trees beside it to sow it in all its glory

Over to your left is another type22 and the second of the Fairmile ones. It’s a step up inside and the ricochet wall is damaged due to the local kids breaking chucks off.

The next place along here is Bow Bridge where Cholsey book enters the Thames, just past the bridge on the left is Type22 well hidden just off the path.
The next place along here is Bow Bridge where Cholsey book enters the Thames, just past the bridge on the left is Type22 well hidden just off the path. 
The two photos show here the past and present. My Father shown in the old one is posing by the bridge with the pillbox clearly in the background, in the second I am stood in the same place in recent years and the pillbox is hidden from sight. The photo was taken a few years ago as since the one of me was taken the gate has been removed

as this was taken in winter you can easily see the pillbox but in the summer you will walk past and not notice it

Carry on towards Wallingford and as you catch sight of  Winterbrook Bridge you should see on the far bank a Type22 which is in the grounds of Mongewell Park or the old Carmel College site.

  Unfortunately it is totally blocked up, most likely by the college when it was open.

Not far away you will notice a boathouse, look at it carefully it is not what it seems. The flat roof part on the side is a defended building

The windows around the side disguise the embrasures 

  and the end has been opened up to fit doors taking out an embrasure, part of which can still be seen, it may well have looked similar to the previous photo

You need to cross the bridge now and take the footpath towards Wallingford, look to the left near the old church at Newnham Murren and you will see a Type 28A which is a bit messy inside due to cattle using it but it was the First 28 I took notice of.


  As you come to Wallingford just before the bridge is another Type22 which is blocked to allow Bats to roost.

  Walk on under the bridge towards the swimming pool and at the end is a Type 28A which is used as storage by the swimming pool.

  Up until recently I did not realise it was there even though I used to go swimming in the pool as a kid. Though the big embrasure is blocked at least it is still there to see

  Back over Wallingford Bridge and along the Thames path you bass Howbury Park and another Type 22 which I’m not sure if it is possible to see in the winter, during the summer it is not. This is one I never knew about till recent times and I spent four years there as an apprentice when it was Hydraulics Research Station. I did manage to visit when the Thames run was on and it is on Good condition.

The next couple are at Benson near the lock, a type 28 with a shutter on the embrasure

with a type 22 next door

Next along the path is this Type 28A you see in the field to the left of the Lock is viewable if a bit boggy to get to in the winter.

you have to go to the lock fo rthe next one but Don’t stop at the lock walk to the end of the chamber and there is a second Type 28A at the end covered in Ivy (I was told about it by a guy who lived in Benson) it is possible to get inside and it’s in reasonable condition though the ivy is taking its toll on the outside.

Head back to the Weir now and cross then walk along to the Thames again, you pass through a boatyard and holiday home site. Up on the right is a Type 22 which was one of the hardest to find due again to Ivy and being party surrounded by a fence. I spotted the top on the way past and it has now been cleared of ivy a bit but the inside is full of wood from the boatyard

Walk on along the Thames path towards Shillingford and around 500 meters away you will see a Type 28A facing the bridge, this is full of rubbish mainly from the flooding it gets.

  Over to the right and beside the road in a copse is a secondType 28A which faces the road and looks towards Benson.Admittedly this one is clean other than some debris from trees.

As you get to Shillingford you pass along a hedge, I had walked past peering through to see if there was anything there and on the way back I spotted concrete. I managed to find my way in and to my delight there was a gun pit partly filled with leaves and debris from the surrounding trees.

Carrying on along the Thames path over the bridge and you walk down a private road and turn right along a path, if you carry on along the road you find a gate leading to a riverside field and another Type 22 which again is in reasonable condition.

Back to the Thames path and follow along to Dorchester. The next pillbox is along the A329 and faces the river, it’s a Type 28A and I might add the hedge is the same height as the pillbox so not easy to spot. It is in good condition though again used by farm stock from time to time. 
Next walk along to the Dike Hills at Dorchester for the Next two Type28A’s

  Hard to say the best way to visit these, I parked up in Dorchester and walked down to the Dyke Hills where you find the first Type 28A facing the A329. It’s in very good condition in and out.

You need to follow the footpath along the hill which is an Iron Age relic to the river Thames where you find a second Type28A. This faces across the river at another Type 28A. Now you are on the wrong side for the next set of pillboxes

Not sure how to class this but on the corner of the wall at Little Wittenham manor in an embrasure,

  Carry on till you come to a footpath which if you follow will bring you out near a farm. You need to go in to the farmyard and look to see if there is any one around you can ask before looking for the pillbox which is over in the far right hand corner of the farm in a copse of elder and singers. Not the easiest I have gotten into but it’s in good nick.

it faces another Type 28A so back to the road where you turn right at the gate and follow the field boundary as you reach the end you should see the Type 28A on the right beside a ditch. This one is in good condition but watch out for deer they seem to live in the area. The pillbox faces across a field towards Northfield farm and another Type 28A.

  It  There is a footpath going across the field on the map but I can’t see it in reality. If you walk up the track from Little Wittenham the pillbox is on the corner. It is used as a store and partly covered in ivy but looks to be in good condition. There was going to be a second pillbox built nearby and the base is incorporated into one of the barns there. The Pillbox faces down the road towards a set of roadblocks which are hidden in the hedge.

  If you head towards Clifton Hampdon then just as the Thames flows near the road you can see another Type 28A in the garden of the Lock keepers house. This faces the road and some roadblocks beside it. There was a ditch running from that point towards the other set at Northfield Farm.

  If you walk along the Thames path again from Clifton Hampdon Bridge along the Clifton Cut you will pass the lock where the type 28A is walk on from there along the cut and near the end is a second Type 28A. It is on the island made by the cut blocked up so not worth the effort of visiting. The fishing rights are owned by someone who threatens trespassers at least they were when I took the photos

   As you walk past the weir look across to the left you will see a Type 22. I might add both the pillboxes are better viewed from the other side of the weir but you need to walk up from Long Wittenham to see them

The next pillboxes are at Appleford bridge where there are two, one Type 28A by the rail embankment

  and a Type 22 across the field a bit further towards the Abingdon road. Both are in good condition.

There is another Type 28A up in the garden of Zouch Farm nearby. It looks in good condition but is another used for storage.

Next walk along the Thames path to Culham and just before you will see a fenced off area (might be a shooting range) follow the fence uphill and go into the field the pillbox is along there a Type 28A facing Zouch Farm, there is also a trashed ROC post beside it and I think the pillbox was used by them at one time as well.

We are coming to the last of the pillboxes now for this section so walk over Sutton Bridge and look across the riverside meadow you should see a Type 28A facing the bridge, it’s another in reasonable condition.

From there head towards the causeway and walk towards the bridge over the cut, there is a Type 22 along the causeway and at the time I visited it had 2 foot of water inside.

Now for the lat pillbox go across the bridge and follow the footpath to the village, head on out towards Abingdon and as you pass the old post office you come to a field where a Type 22 is well hidden in the undergrowth, looked very messy in there when I visited.

That’s it for Pillboxes though if you go to Old Culham bridge you can view the bases of where two used to be built right on the bridge., they even build an extension off the bridge to accommodate one which was a Type 28A facing towards the river,
The built out section for the Type 28A

  The second could only have been a Type 28. You can see where the gun outriggers would have fitted in the slots as they are still in the bridge filled with soil.

  This last pillbox would have been in Abingdon on the other side of the river , it was removed years ago but I did manage to screen gab a photo from a Video a guy I work with showed me in a You Tube film made in 1954 & taken along the Thames near Abingdon it shows a Type 22 on the bank near some houses. This was the last one on this section of the Thames Stopline. It can be seen around 3.44 min in. 
The pillbox would have been the start of the section that ran from Abingdon to Appleford Common  which I will show in the next blog which is Abingdon to Appleton Common Part 1
You can read the Sulham Valley section here
The photo's shown in this blog are only a taster to give an idea as to what I was up against.  For a more in depth read have a look  article on Geograph. 


  1. Really enjoyed this post, Bill. You've done a great job documenting an important and fascinating part of history!

  2. Happens to me also, I start out to get a few photos and it turns into an expedition!
    This is great.

  3. There are a couple more dotted around Abingdon! Name a (possible) Type 22 near Abingdon tesco Extra alongside the Ock River

    1. SHould be covered in the Abingdon to Applford common set. The you are on about is Type 26 and is sat on the side of th eformer Wilts & Berks canal looking towards the Ock, there are also a load of Dragons teeth there. Nice to know you spotted it.