Site Records


SiteName: North Weald Mobilisation Centre (aka North Weald Redoubt)

North Weald
Essex
TL505040

Subbrit site visit August 1996

[Source: Nick Catford]

13 Mobilisation Centres were built between 1889 and 1903 as part of the London Defence Scheme. These were not planned as forts although some of them would have been armed on mobilisation. Their main function was as a store for guns, small arms ammunition, tools and other equipment required for the batteries and infantry allocated for the defence of the neighbourhood in the event of a foreign invasion. The casemates could also be used as barrack accommodation.

Photo:The magazines
Photo by Nick Catford

The North Weald Redoubt was the first of the mobilisation centres to be constructed and the only fortified centre north of the Thames. It was located on high ground to the south of North Weald Bassett and faced north east with good command of the ground to its front and sides. It was described in 1903 as "situated on a commanding knoll" and that "from mile 17 to 19 the road is commanded by North Weald Fort; a distance about 2 miles east"

Although based on the Twydall profile (an experimental project at Twydall, near Chatham, in which low profile earthwork defences replaced the permanent ditch and rampart defences of a few decades earlier with a resultant low profile), its location was given away by being positioned on a high point. In plan the rampart was roughly semicircular in shape some 500 feet across. In the ditch at the foot of the rampart was an 8 foot high unclimbable or Dacoit steel fence that terminated at each end of the gorge casemates. Behind the rampart, in an arc, were three magazines for cartridges and shells, with shafts to supply the guns above. The flat concrete roof above the magazines was made thicker than that of the adjacent chambers and unusually, not earth covered. No reinforcement to the concrete can be seen so, if the roofs are reinforced, this must be within the thickness of the concrete. All three cartridge stores were entered through shifting lobbies and illuminated by lamps placed in recesses from the adjacent chambers. The lamps for these were kept in a centrally placed lamp room. Between the magazines were two pairs of gun casemates (to shelter the guns in) flanked by two pairs of artillery general stores. It is recorded that doors were never provided to these gun casemates though hinge hooks were fitted to take them.

Photo:The 'issue hatch' in one of the magazines
Photo by Nick Catford

One cartridge store appears to have had a problem with damp as a gully runs along the rear of the chamber discharging through the wall to the shifting lobby entrance. This opening was covered by a small grill identical to those for the vents to the lamp recesses.

Artists impression of the completed redoubt
Drawn by Roger Gill of the Palmerston Forts Society

Also here, dividing the above into three blocks, were the entrances to two tunnels that passed through the rampart and emerged in two hollows in its forward. These hollows and others each side of them, formed a discontinuous secondary rampart or 'fausse-braye'. Manned by riflemen, they would have allowed the parapet to be kept clear for the artillery that the fort was designed to mount. This arrangement was advantageous for the troops manning them as their heads would not be silhouetted against the skyline. So these hollows would not flood in heavy rain, each was provided with a drain. Some thought went into the design of the tunnels, the thickness of the concrete roofs increased in steps towards the outer end, as the thickness of the earth cover above decreased.

At the rear, a dry ditch closed off entry to the site. The ditch scarp was formed by a row of casemates with a parados above.

Photo:The gorge casemates (the wooden building on top has now gone)
Photo by Nick Catford

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

Home Page
Last updated: Tuesday, 04-Jan-2011 14:55:48 GMT
© 1998-2002 Subterranea Britannica