MSO7673 - West Myne Rotor Station (Monument)

Summary

The site of a Cold War military installation on a spur overlooking the Bristol Channel, visible as a few fragments of concrete. It is reported to have been in use between 1953 and 1964, and was levelled in the 1960s.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

Centred at SS 92678 48471 on a pronounced west to east spur overlooking the Bristol Channel is the site of a building compound, part of a Cold War military installation. The site was pointed out by the farmer (Mr Knight) who stated that it was in use between 1953 and 1964. He described a building complex and two masts. The masts were sited on the northern edge of Bratton Ball (see MSO12713 and MSO12714). The site was completely levelled in the 1960s. At the National Grid Reference cited in a field of improved pasture are several small areas of concrete, just visible poking through the turf; these appear to represent the site of the compound. [1] A radar station of the post-war Rotor programme was constructed on North Hill at about SS 928 486. It was of unusual design because of the landscape value of the area. [2] There is nothing at the National Grid Reference given but a tarmac road leads towards an animal shelter at SS 9266 4852. The shelter comprises a covered area to the south with an open front into a yard. There is a room with a door in the covered area to the west. The whole is constructed of large concrete blocks, some of which seem to be reused. There are no windows and an corrugated asbestos roof. There is no evidence that this formed part of the radar station. However to the west is a large (over 35 metres long) flat area with various features which suggest that there has been a military building. These include several holes blocked with large stones, an area of concrete and a small concrete setting with embedded slate, presumably part of a damp course for a wooden structure. [3] The cold war radar station referred to above [1] is visible as a group of buildings on an aerial photograph. The military installation is centred at SS 9261 4857 and is comprised of a R11 technical block centred at SS 9260 4857 and two radar masts of types 14 (SS 9267 4847) and 13 (SS 9258 4851) (contary to above they were located at the main site). A remote transmitter and receiver block were also provided and both were located on Bratton Ball at SS 942 475 and SS 945 474 respectively, about 1/4 miles south east of the main technical site. The site was in operation from 1956 and was still in use by 1958. The station was subsequently closed and completely demolished. [4-6] The Rotor programme was developed to advance the wartime radar technology in detecting and locating fast-flying jets. It was approved by the Air Council in June 1950. [7] Records of the site are scanty but the location had been decided by Summer 1953 to extend Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) cover in the west of England. It was the only new station built in England under the Rotor 3 programme. The National Trust resisted the proposal but agreed on condition that the Royal Fine Art Commission should approve the design. The County Council was also involved in granting planning permission and this resulted in a prolonged consultation period until the RFAC committee pronounced itself satisfied on 31st May 1954. The building appears to have been a variant of the Rotor 11 building - an unprotected CHEL operations block. [8] West Myne radar station was located at SS 927 485. [9] Aerial photography from 1979 shows the partial remains (building bases) of the Rotor station surviving at the site. [10] RAF West Myne was built as part of Rotor 3, the final stage of the Rotor programme, which involved providing radar cover for the north and west of the British Isles. A single-storey, surface R11 operations block was constructed at the site, which was completed in 1956. The foundations for the plinth and gantry for the Type 13 and Type 14 radars were built sunk into the ground to limit the impact on the National Trust land. Two remote VHF transmitter and receiver blocks were situated just over a mile away at Bratton Ball (at SS 942 475 and SS 945 474). No domestic camp was provided and staff were billeted at hotels in Minehead. The station was made redundant in 1958 and the buildings were demolished shortly after. The only surviving features are a large, flat area that was the site of the R11 building, a second concrete area that was possibly an ancillary building, and a road which led to the site. [11] The Public Record Office contains a file created by the Royal Fine Art Commission containing letters and copies between the National Trust (NT), Somerset County Council (SCC) and the Royal Fine Art Commission (RFAC). Letter from Air Ministry 29 March 1954. "we are .. providing the smaller buildings with pitched roofs and the two large buildings (the main technical block and the standby set building) with flat roofs screened by low parapets." Planned to hand over site to contractors in May. NT and SCC still not happy and note in letter (NT to RFAC, 13 April 1954) that the local NT agent has pointed out that these buildings are on the top of the hill and thus should be as low as possible! Their closer appearance is much less important. Notes of a meeting at 28th April 1954. Air Min, NT, RFAC. "The new design for the R11 was condidered satisfactory but it was strongly urged that the intake transformer house and sub-station should be combined with this… [AM - probably], The stand-by set might have to remain a separate building but… [AM to consider combining]. It was agreed that the foundation blocks for the gantry should be sunk, which would lower the structure 3 or 4 feet but it would not be possible to sink the building between these blocks. The plinth structure would be treated on similar lines. NT visit site and suggest that buildings should be "pushed downhill" (May 1954) RFAC minutes agree design with "a flat roof on the welfare block" and a simplification in plan of the main building. (12 May 1954). By June 1954 everybody was happy but the NT have now learnt that "a second group of buildings is contemplated east of Selworthy Beacon, apparently on North Hill and adjacent to land owned by the Trust. This is also an important site." [12] It is suggested that the R11 operations block was never built and only temporary structures were erected. [13] The station's code was "ZEM" within the Rotor programme. [14] A permanent building certainly seems to have been built as the mother of a National Trust worker remembers cleaning the polished wooden floors (which were not used in temporary hutting). Records show that the equipment was being installed and that there was no domestic accommodation (hotels in Minehead would have been used when needed). VHF masts were sited at SS 942475 (MSO12714) and SS 945 474 (MSO12713) with the standby set on the main site (MSO12638). [15] Records in the PRO include the minutes of the hand-over meeting from the Ministry of Supply to the RAF and the testing report ("Report on AIS inspection of installation of equipment to contract 6WT/35098/CB14(a) at Site ZEM") that was discussed there. These make it clear that the site was completed and working when handed over on 2 March 1956. The VHF equipment had been tested and was working. The testing of the radar (one Type 14, Mark 7 Head and one Type 13, Mk 7 Head) had been completed on 1 March 1956 but it had not been possible to complete the repainting of the antennae due to bad weather. [16] The area is shown as rough grazing on aerial photographs of 1970 so the site must have been cleared at some date before then. [17] RAF aerial photographs of 1958 show the site clearly. The operations block and two other buildings lie in the levelled area with two antennae on the higher ground behind. The main aerial is MSO12638. The agricultural building is also shown at this date. [18]

Sources/Archives (18)

  • <1> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R Wilson-North, 26 February 1998.
  • <2> Verbal communication: Thomas, R. June 1998. Oral information.
  • <3> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. Chris Webster, SMR Officer, July 1998.
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. RAF/58/2555 (PTI) 0118-0119 (1 September 1958).
  • <5> Website: Subterranea Britannica. Unknown. Subterranea Britannica web site. http://www.subbrit.org.uk/">www.subbrit.org.uk/. http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/w/west_myne/index.html.
  • <6>XY Archive: Severn Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment: SS 94 NW. MD000133. [Mapped feature: #40026 ]
  • <7> Monograph: Cocroft, Wayne D & Thomas, Roger JC. 2003. Cold War: Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989. 86-110.
  • <8> Monograph: Dobinson, C. S.. 2000. Twentieth century fortifications in England: The Cold War. XI. 1 (text). 36-72.
  • <9> Monograph: Dobinson, C. S.. 2000. Twentieth century fortifications in England: The Cold War. XI. 2 (Appendices). 168.
  • <10> Monograph: Anderton, M.J.. 2000. Twentieth Century Military Recording Project: Cold War Rotor Stations. 42.
  • <11> Website: Subterranea Britannica. Unknown. Subterranea Britannica web site. http://www.subbrit.org.uk/">www.subbrit.org.uk/. RAF West Myne.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Unknown. 1954. West Myne. Somerset: proposed installation of a radar station.
  • <13> Website: 2004. Blackiston website. http://www.blackiston.btinternet.co.uk/chel.html.
  • <14> Website: 2004. Blackiston website. http://www.blackiston.btinternet.co.uk/sites.html.
  • <15> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. Bob Janner, Phone call to Somerset HER, 23 November 2004.
  • <16> Unpublished document: Unknown. 1955-1957. Operation ROTOR: improvements to Fighter Command C&R system.
  • <17> Aerial photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1970. 1:2500 rectified aerial photographs.
  • <18> Aerial photograph: 1-SEP-1958. RAF 58 2555 01-SEP-1958 0119.

Map

Location

Grid reference Centred SS 92617 48538 (176m by 145m)
Map sheet SS94NW
Civil Parish MINEHEAD WITHOUT, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Events/Activities (2)

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO786
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO12600
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 94 NW122
  • National Park
  • National Trust HER Record: MNA168305
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1124654
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 35811

Record last edited

Nov 16 2020 3:34PM

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