28 Jan 2012
SMHS sought permission to clear vegetation from around the Battery Plotting Room to the west of Newhaven Fort.
The fort's role as a coast artillery battery is well known; less well known are the remains of a three-gun battery situated to the west of the fort, constructed 1941-43.
Tucked away 100m downhill from the actual gun emplacements and hidden in dense undergrowth was the Battery Plotting Room (BPR), which formed part of the fire control system. Situated beside a public footpath, few people probably realised the BPR was even there, much less what its purpose was.
The Castle Hill Conservation Group agreed to SMHS clearing the thick vegetation as part of a wider conservation project.
Small trees were felled and low scrub cut back to provide easier access around the site.
Dense gorse and creeper vines were a particular problem; the latter had spread across much of the roof and was actually damaging the asphalt surface. A small team climbed a ladder onto the roof to cut the vegetation off.
A pathway was cut around the back of the BPR, allowing us to walk a complete circuit of the structure; this revealed some of the communications cabling and small concrete blocks that once anchored camouflage material in place.
We actually had archive documents describing the camouflage layout; it appears that a wooden framework was built to extend the roof southwards towards the rising ground level to prevent shadow causing the BPR to stand out conspicuously. Unfortunately, no surviving evidence of it was found.
Clearance of some particularly nasty brambles uncovered a set of steps leading down towards the BPR. The steps were of concrete slabs supported by brick risers and they cleaned up well, despite some missing slabs.
An opportunity to clear out and record the interior of the BPR was also taken. Although the door is securely locked at all times, this was not always the case in the years after the war, and quite a bit of rubbish and debris had collected inside.
The interior, comprising a corridor and the plotting room itself (the small boiler room alongside the BPR is bricked up) were cleared of as much debris as possible before a detailed survey was begun. This in itself was not easy, as, although daylight reaches the end of the corridor through the open doorway, the plotting room is in complete darkness!
Outside, some minor excavations revealed the BPR foundations and communications cables. Metal detecting the surrounding area yielded little of interest, beyond various nails that might have been left over from the construction.
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