3. Transforming the Landscape (TL)

TL04 Stop! The Military Heritage of the Trent Valley

Preserving the built heritage of the WWII Stop Line.

Project Summary

Through this project, we are focusing on the surviving military heritage within the Trent Valley landscape, mainly comprising pillboxes, which formed part of the iconic Second World War ‘Stop Line’.

Local volunteers are carrying out recording and condition surveys of these structures, which will be utilised to develop proposals for their long term monitoring and management. To compliment this work volunteers are carrying out research, conducting oral history surveys, and helping develop content for interpretation.

A number of appropriate sites have been identified for reversible reuse such as wildlife refuges, bird hides, and interpretation spaces. A selection of these sites will be converted and design guidance will be produced to inform future conversions within the project area and elsewhere.

The Stop! project will have shown that, when done sensitively and when properly considered, military heritage assets such as pillboxes can be provided with a new purpose such as bat roosts, bird hides etc. which can ensure their longevity and upkeep.

Local communities, local groups and landowners will have taken responsibility for and engaged with their heritage. Through training the project will provide them with the skills to understand, record, monitor, manage and maintain heritage assets within the landscape partnership scheme area.

Project Lead

Staffordshire County Council

Dr Mark Knight
Cultural Heritage Officer
Transforming the Trent Valley

Transforming the Trent Valley


Stop! The Military Heritage of the Trent Valley Blog

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Linking With the Past

How do I do this?
It's a question I often ask myself. Whether it's cooking a new recipe or fixing a bookcase, I start with the same question. How do I do this?

If it is something I already know about, the answer can be easy, straightforward even. A year of fixing furniture, fences and buildings have given me all the skills I need to fix a bookcase, though my wife will point out that this experience has not given me the skills to do it without making a considerable mess!

But I'm thinking about my job here; and why it was created? I'm a Cultural Heritage Officer to help look after historic sites and more importantly to help other people look after them.

There are a lot of those around in the Trent Valley landscape. We have stone-age settlements, deserted medieval villages, Victorian industrial sites, monuments, memorials, churches, wartime pillboxes and much more.

Thousands of years worth of human heritage from archaeology we can only see on aerial photos to great stone monuments which everyone can admire. I need to help people look after all of these sites.

If the last year or so has taught us anything, it is that the internet has come of age. Fortunately for me, there is lots of advice online but it is not always easy to find. I can visit landowners and answer questions about their historic places, help them in person*, but this is not enough. I needed a source of advice and guidance that people can access at any time. That is why I created a page with links to the best advice online.

A surprising amount of guidance has ended up on archive web sites, so I asked colleagues and experts for their ideas of current web sites that hold the best advice for landowners.

If you are looking at a historic site where you live or work and are asking yourself, "How do I care for this?", may I suggest our links page as a good staring point.

* Transforming the Trent Valley can offer free advice, and help with caring for historic sites. if you are interested in this service, please contact us

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A Home Front Mystery

They're not in the books. I can't find anything about them on the internet. No-one who should know, appears to know. It's eighty-one years old, weighs tons (I mean literally weighs tons) and is bullet proof.

Say hello to the "Type-Unknown" Pillbox.

You see, I'm a pillbox nerd. Since being taken into an air raid shelter aged five, I've been a fan of the defensive buildings of the Second World War. I'm also really lucky because pillboxes are a big part of my job. (I know it's niche but it's my niche), so when I first saw one of these 'unknown' pillboxes I was surprised. In 1940 as Britain faced the threat of invasion, about 28,000 pillboxes were built across the country. To achieve such a monumental feat, pillboxes were designed to standard patterns or "Types" that made them quick to build and strong against enemy attack.

The most common pillbox is the Type 24, a hexagonal building that would fit seven soldiers. Across the Tame, Trent and Dove river valleys these are the backbone of Stop Line Number 5. A network of pillboxes ready to delay an invading Nazi army until reinforcements could arrive and drive them back towards the sea.

Then I met the slopey pillbox. The first one I saw was in a private garden. It had a roof like a wedge of cheese. Then I saw one in Marston-on-Dove, a few yards from the road bridge. I found more of these pillboxes that I hadn't seen before.

Pillbox geekery is not unique to me. There is a band of fellow geeks across the country and through the magic of Facebook I have asked the internet to tell me what Type these were. No one has answered yet. I have been through the books I have and old pictures. No other pillboxes like these appear to exist.

So why does a stretch of the Dove Valley in Staffordshire and Derbyshire have this unique type of pillbox? They are often situated by railway bridges or by roads near railways. Is there a connection between these small rectangular pillboxes and the wartime railway network? Were some strategically weak places under defended when the first batch of pillboxes were built along the network? Were these smaller pillboxes an attempt to fix this and plug the gaps in the stop line?

And why the sloping roof? Mono-pitched roofs like this are a good way to build a shed roof. Were these pillboxes designed to look like a shed? I have found one which bears the stump of a dummy chimney on its roof. That was certainly an attempt at camouflage and subterfuge but was it the reason for the design or an opportunistic/artistic addition by the builders.

The pitched roofs are solid concrete. That's a very thick piece of masonry at the high end. Could the roofs have been an attempt to deflect bomb blasts? TTTV Military Heritage Researchers are volunteers investigating the things we don't know about the pillboxes. Are you interested in these small forts across the landscape? Would you like to help us with our research and become one of our volunteers?

The Second World War ended only seventy-six years ago. Yet there is still a great deal about it that we do not know.

Part One - Stop! The Military Heritage of the Trent Valley.

Join Sarah and Rod as they discuss Stop! The Military Heritage of the Trent Valley, a project that Rod is leading as part of the Transforming the Trent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme. The primary focus of the project is on the Second World War defensive pillboxes that can be found along the Rivers Tame, Trent and Dove.

Part Two - Stop! The Military Heritage of the Trent Valley.

Join Sarah and Rod as they discuss Stop! The Military Heritage of the Trent Valley, a project that Rod is leading as part of the Transforming the Trent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme. The primary focus of the project is on the Second World War defensive pillboxes that can be found along the Rivers Tame, Trent and Dove.

Talk of the Trent.

The variety of places my work takes me to is fantastic. Last week I was at the Shugborough Estate as a guest of the National Trust, to learn their system for carrying out Condition Surveys of archaeological sites and monuments.

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Cultural Heritage Update.

The great thing about the Transforming the Trent Valley Partnership is the sheer variety of what we're working to achieve. This means I'm constantly talking with my colleagues to see how our work crosses over and how, when these overlaps occur, we can work together and get even better results.

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"STOP!" Is starting.

Never was so much owed by so many, to so few as in the Battle of Britain. Today we take for granted the success of the young pilots of Spitfires and Hurricanes who stopped Hitler from ruling the sky so Nazi Germany could launch an invasion of Great Britain.

Stop! The Military Heritage of the Trent Valley Projects

Future Projects

Details of future projects to be delivered by Transforming the Trent Valley and its partners as part of Stop! The Military Heritage of the Trent Valley project will be posted here soon.

Current Projects

Completed Projects