Monday, October 25, 2010

Historic K&A Canal Pillbox listed 

A Second World War pillbox overlooking the Kennet & Avon Canal opposite Devizes Wharf will now be preserved thanks to a campaign by local blacksmith and historian John Girvan — and the voluntary efforts of students from New College, Swindon.

John Girvan by the second World War Pillbox beside the K&A Canal in Rotherstone, Devizes. Picture by Bob Naylor

John Girvan grew up in Rotherstone, Devizes and he has fond childhood memories of playing with his friends in the old pillbox next to the canal near his home. In recent years, though, the pillbox had become hidden by ivy and its important war-time role was at risk of being forgotten. In 2009 John set out to get the pillbox listed. He wrote to Elaine Pearce who was then the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport and he has now received a letter officially designating it as a Grade 2 Listed Building.

John said, "I am really pleased that it has been listed. I wasn't confident that it would be when I applied but this is an important part of our history and it would have been a great shame if it had been demolished as so many other pillboxes in the area have over the years."
The  structure was part of of the anti-tank line known as Stop Line Blue that included the Kennet & Avon Canal and pillboxes and 'dragon's teeth' anti-tank defences that were built in 1940 and early 1941 after the defeat at Dunkirk when Britain faced the threat of imminent invasion.  

Students from New College, Swindon at the pillbox beside the canal in Devizes. Picture by Bob Naylor

Getting the pillbox listed  is just the first stage in preserving the structure and John enlisted the help of Sarah Brice the British Waterways Regeneration Manager for the south of England who has organised volunteers to start to clear away the ivy and undergrowth from around it.

Last week a team of Health and Social Care students from New College Swindon working with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers  supervised by Tracy Mackeddie spent a day opening up the area around the pillbox.

NOTE: Pillboxes were built all over Britain during the war to defend against an anticipated German invasion. The website: estimates that although 28,000 were built across the country, fewer than 6,000 of them still remain. 

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