To ensure a steady flow of articles through this blog I’ve come up with a new regular piece focussing on ‘pillbox myths’. From time to time someone will state a ‘fact’ about pillboxes that quite simply isn’t true and is in fact a myth. Some of these myths have now entered common knowledge and are readily accepted as true. This is my attempt to debunk some of the most common myths surrounding pillboxes (and maybe vent a bit).
Bring on the myth!
‘All pillboxes are protected/listed/scheduled by Historic England/English Heritage/The National Trust etc. etc.’
A couple of weeks ago someone on a popular social media platform stated categorically that the recent preservation of a pillbox, within a new housing estate, was not due to the work of the local planning department, HER or the developers, but was because ‘all pillboxes are listed by English Heritage’.
This annoyed me somewhat as the statement had no factual basis and dismissed the hard work of those who had ensured this structure’s preservation; especially when the developers could have bulldozed the pillbox and built houses on the space. This spurred me on to write this post.
Every so often I encounter posts on social media by individuals wishing to learn more; enquiring whether pillboxes, and other Second World War defences, are all subject to statutory protection based solely on their perceived importance. Though some pillboxes are protected through scheduling and listing; often because of their rarity, level of preservation or historical significance (and the fact that someone took the time to apply to have the structure protected), the majority are not protected by listing/scheduling. This means that it is often up to the landowner whether to retain or demolish them. In England scheduling and listing of historic buildings falls under the remit of Historic England; it is a common misconception that English Heritage are still responsible for this process.
Unfortunately, if people do believe that all pillboxes are protected, then the survival of significant/important remaining pillboxes can be put at risk, as people won’t take any action when a pillbox is threatened with demolition.
But all hope is not lost! Anyone can apply to have a historic site or building listed or scheduled. This can be done with the online form available on the Historic England website. The process is very straightforward and you don’t need to be a heritage professional to submit an application.
Information on listed buildings can also be added to through the ‘Enriching the List’ project and this is well worth looking into as well.
Countering The Myth
The best way to counter this myth is to simply explain that most pillboxes are not protected in anyway whatsoever; often the expense of demolition and sympathetic landowners are the only thing protecting a surviving pillbox. Pointing people in the direction of the online listing application form is also worthwhile. Who knows? More pillboxes, and other defences, may acquire listed/scheduled status!
Find Out More
You can find out more about scheduling and listing via the links below.
Preserving sites ‘in the record’ is extremely important. It is not possible to physically retain all sites and structures. Adequately recording sites and depositing that information within the archaeological record, through Historic Environment Records, is the best way to preserve a site. That way, if it is lost, the information is still there to tell future generations about the site or structure.
Pillbox Myths #1 by Chris Kolonko is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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