SMHS project: Type 28 Pillbox

31 Aug 2013

SMHS kicked off the Withyham Parish Project by clearing vegetation away from a Type 28 Pillbox.

The Type 28 was designed to mount a WW1 6-pounder gun, although it is likely that shortages ensured that most Type 28s in East Sussex never received one. The pillboxes were sited to defend bridges that cross stop lines.

Type 28 Pillbox

The site was heavily overgrown with small trees and dense brambles, with thick ivy choking the structure. It was actually impossible to walk around the pillbox until the SMHS team got to work.

The vegetation was completely cleared from the immediate vicinity and a metal detector sweep carried out. A couple of pieces of rusty ironwork (believed to be left-over pieces of reinforcing bars) were uncovered a few metres away from the pillbox.

Small trees were felled before the removal of the dense ivy was attempted. The creeper was detached from the walls, but the vegetation on the roof proved to be somewhat problematic until an efficient method was developed.

We simply cut through the rooftop 'garden' and rolled it up like a carpet before pushing it over the edge!

The remnants of soil were swept off the roof and focus was switched to the interior.

Graffiti in the form of '1940' and some initials were discovered in the embrasure sill.

The loose earth on the pillbox floor was shovelled and swept out to reveal a rough concrete surface. A large earth bank had been piled up at the rear, partly blocking off the doorway. A small trench was cut into this bank to see if there were any steps, but none were found. Drainage holes in the walls indicated that the bank post-dated the original construction.

One corner of the foundation slab was excavated; it was found to be 60cm thick and had been poured in several layers, wood shuttering being used.

Unfortunately, the earth bank at the rear was too large for us to remove within the time and with the resources available. However, enough of the pillbox has been uncovered for a survey to be carried out and a 3D computer model to be constructed.

This pillbox was the most overgrown we will tackle in the next few weeks, so the next few we clear should prove easier.

But even with a small team working for one day, an enormous amount can be achieved!


We felt we couldn't leave the pillbox with its doorway blocked up, and so we diverted our team back on our next work day.

The soil at the rear was heavily compacted and contained roots and stones, making it difficult to cut through it.

However, a few hours' work finally saw a narrow trench cut through the spoil, and the extent of an unusually large foundation slab revealed.

Measuring has been done and work on a 3D computer model will begin in due course!

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