I do not accept liability for those visiting the site, it is recomended that you stick to the dedicated paths and not deviate from them.
The Old Ranges.
Welcome to the second part of our look at the wartime defences of Southend-on-Sea, in this part we continue our look at the Old Ranges, and take a more indepth look at some of the emplacements built on the site.
The first of these is the
The Experimental Casement
The Experimental Casement was built in 1872-3 it was used by the British School of Gunnery it was later adapted into the Light Quick Firing Battery in 1893, further modifications saw it serve during the Second World War.
The casement is of brick and concrete construction two cannons were originally housed in the structure; this was reduced to one during the Second World War with a range finders position being allocated to the left hand side of the building, however all the original mountings for the early cannons were left in-situ. The right hand-side housed an anti shipping gun two large steel shutters would be opened to permit the gun to be wheeled forward into the firing position. The range finder would then direct the firing operation. Until recently the Experimental Casement was open to the public hwerver in an effot to help preserve the structure and to cut down on the vandalism steel shutters have been placed over the acess points.
two cannons were originally housed in the structure; this was reduced to one during the Second World War with a range finders position being allocated to the left hand side of the building, however all the original mountings for the early cannons were left in-situ.
The right hand-side housed an anti shipping gun two large steel shutters would be opened to permit the gun to be wheeled forward into the firing position. The range finder would then direct the firing operation.
Until recently the Experimental Casement was open to the public hwerver in an effot to help preserve the structure and to cut down on the vandalism steel shutters have been placed over the acess points.
The Viking Rampart
The oldest military installation on the site is this Viking Rampart from AD894 it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument behind are the two Powder Magazines from 1852 the first brick built buildings on the site.
One of the two powder magazines that survive on the site built in 1852 still in incredibly good condition. The embankment just in shot to the left is a blast wall protecting the nearby accommodation.
The Heavy Quick Fire Battery
Without doubt one of the most impresive relics of the Old ranges is the Heavy Quick Firing Battery of 1898 this was also adapted from a much smaller previous structure, the remains of which are just visible as a dark stain on one end of the structure.
There are four firing positions on top of the structure these were anti-shipping guns and used in conjunction with the nearby Searchlight positions.
To the right we can see the elegant front face of the QF Battery each cresent is a firing position, whilst below the back of the structure is far more ugly.
A shell lift was used to rise the shells from the storage below to the firing positions on the roof, the shell would be placed on the fold down holder and then winched to the top by an electric motor,the two shell lifts surrive. These were used to lift the shells from the bunker in the bottom to the gunners on top of the building. The shells would be laid in the lift tray seen in the "down" position in the right hand photo. Once the shell was laid in place the tray would be moved into the "up" position, then it would then be winched to the upper level by a chain operated from a control pannel set further back in the building. Sadly the control panel was destroyed in an arson attack in 2007. (see below)
No:2 Coastal Artillery Searchlight Emplacement
The Coastal Artillery Searchlight Emplacement housed a 90cm Coastal Search Light with a 90/42 Mk V Projector. The search light was used to scan the Estuary at night and if need be light up any enemy craft that ventured too close. The geology of the shore is flat, but there are a number of sand banks and it was hoped that any raiding craft would get beached and become sitting ducks for the defenders to fire at.
The tower was modified after the end of the war, this saw the cutting out and re-rendering of the wall that held the lower rail that the steel shutter doors would have moved on.
Little is known about the "Gunpits" it is thought they were used for the testing of rifled cannons and guns, there were originally four of these pit concrete walled pits let open however in 2009 they were filled with soil and grassed over.
6inch hold fast.
Remains of the 6” gun holdfast, the gun was housed in a pillbox that was demolished soon after the end of the Second World War, up until the new seawall was re-built a cannon was embeded in the original, it was encased within the new seawall.
Ground Level FW3/24 rectangular pillbox.
This was originally flush with the level of the grass, it has a single entrance on the land side with three firing loops on the side overlooking the Thames Estuary. The main armament came from a Vickers Machine Gun, firing loops were also located in the back wall for small arms fire over the fields. The entrance is partly blocked so access is not possible.
There are many of the original buildings still standing within the old ranges, these include the old hospital which is now a house, as have many of the original accomodation buildings. The gunnery drill shed is in the process of being restored and converted for commercial use.
Originally there were as many as fifty Air Raid Shelters built within the Garrison/old Ranges today it is thought just nine survive. one shelter is in somebody’s garden, however they have all had their entrances blocked with concrete slabs and cast iron doors.
However before we leave the Old Ranges there are two more sites we will be looking at.
The first of these is:
And finally the final site for the tour of the Old Ranges.
The “Barge Pier” originally named “Garrison Pier” little information exists on what the pier was used for.
The Barge Pier has a Length of around 380ft,the pier head is 84ft wide tapering out to a maximum width of 98ft this then reduces over a length of 102ft to a 27ft wide neck of about 278ft in length. The pier was served by a dual 5ft gauge railway.
It is rumoured that parts of Britain’s first atomic bomb were landed here for testing.
Visible in the backgound is the broken remains of the Phoenix Caisson which will be detailed in another part of this series.
The site is a former LIVE weapons testing and proving ground and that the beach is still owned by the Ministry of Defence, therefore take heed of all notices posted around the site.
Do not pick up, kick or remove any metallic or any other objects from the site, failure to heed the advice could result in death or injury to yourself or others.