Principal Archaeological Landscape: Selworthy Military Complex (33)

Authority Exmoor National Park Authority
Date assigned 01 January 2011
Date last amended
Date revoked
Previously known as Selworthy WWII complex Location The Selworthy military complex is located on a coastal ridge running westwards from Minehead towards Porlock Marsh. To its south is the Vale of Porlock and much lower ground, stretching eastwards through Holnicote towards Bratton and Minehead. The northern side is sharply defined by dramatic sea cliffs cut through by deep combes, running to the sea. Much of the ridge top is open heathland, but enclosed farmland also stretches upwards from its lower slopes. Description of Archaeology This area was used intermittently for military activity in the nineteenth century and was requisitioned by the army at the beginning of WW2 for military training, particularly tank crews in advance of the Normandy landings in June 1944. At the end of the war it was returned to civilian use. The physical remains of military activity cover an extensive area and include a concrete road, built from Minehead to Bossington Hill (approximately 6 km). This has now been surfaced with tarmac and provides access to a dramatic viewpoint, with views along Exmoor’s coastline. Administration and maintenance for the firing ranges was in Moor Wood, at the eastern end of the complex. The Luttrell plantation of Scots Pine trees provided camouflage from aerial reconnaissance and was filled with at least 12 Nissen huts, vehicle maintenance buildings and other structures. The ranges themselves comprise a large number of observation buildings (some subterranean), three triangular tank training circuits and three target railways. These structures remain visible today in varying levels of completeness within this relict landscape. The military complex also contains a radar station which formed part of the Chain Home Low group. A separate Cold War period Royal Observer Corps structure existed on Bratton Ball but is no longer extant. In addition the PAL includes some prehistoric remains in the form of flint scatters, an extensive funerary group of barrows and cairns and Furzebury Brake, an Iron Age enclosure. A number of these sites are Scheduled Monuments. Principal significance This relict military training landscape is a very rare survival nationally. Many training areas have continued to be used by the military, removing traces of their earlier functions, or have been partly lost since 1945. However the Selworthy military complex contains a relatively complete training landscape, with a number of its structures in very good condition. Of additional interest is the survival of two abandoned farmsteads within the area (West and East Myne); these were requisitioned by the military as part of the training ground and have never been re-occupied. Today they are in ruins, but are a poignant reminder of the impact of military training on some rural populations. The CD/CHL radar station is also a rare and important survival. The 1946-48 air photographs highlight the intensity of the military activities on this area of Exmoor and complement the archaeological remains. The relatively recent date of activities on this site means that there is the potential for a significantly greater understanding of its uses to be gained from research into military and other archives.

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Grid reference Centred SS 9287 4812 (5620m by 1670m)
Map sheet SS94NW

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