Historic wartime pillbox in danger after cliff fall

The cliffs in front of a pillbox at Happisburgh are crumbling. 

The cliffs in front of a pillbox at Happisburgh are crumbling. - Credit: Tony Boiling

A Second World War pillbox looks to be in danger of destruction as erosion has left it just a few feet away from the cliff face. 

In a stark reminder of of the rate of coastal erosion along parts of the north Norfolk coast, it is feared the historic structure close to Happisburgh Lighthouse will be gone within a year or two as ever more clifftop crumbles into the sea.

The cliffs in front of a pillbox at Happisburgh are crumbling. 

The cliffs in front of a pillbox at Happisburgh are crumbling. - Credit: Tony Boiling

Tony Boiling, who lives at nearby Eccles, said he was shocked at how quickly the area was eroding after walking his dog along the cliff top pathway last week. 

Mr Boiling, 65, said: "There has been a steady progression of erosion here and nothing's being done about it. If not this year then perhaps next year [the pill box] will be on the beach."

A little way north of the pill box a much larger section of cliff top has also collapsed. 

A cliff fall at Happisburgh which was first noticed in November last year has expanded.

A cliff fall at Happisburgh which was first noticed in November last year has expanded. - Credit: Tony Boiling

This fall was first noticed last November, but has expanded since then. 


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Mr Boiling said: "It's like a huge sinkhole. The ground is just not strong enough."

Pete Revell, Bacton Coastguard station officer, said the cliffs at Happisburgh were more unstable than anywhere else along the north Norfolk coast. 

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He said: "It's unbelievable how much it has eroded. Every time a bit of cliff disappears it's a bit of the UK disappearing as well." 

The remaining debris after two separate cliff falls happened along Happisburgh Beach Picture: NEIL

The cliff fall at Happisburgh as it looked in November last year. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY - Credit: NEIL DIDSBURY

A cliff fall at Happisburgh which was first noticed in November last year has expanded.

A cliff fall at Happisburgh which was first noticed in November last year has expanded. - Credit: Tony Boiling

Mr Revell repeated the message that people should take extra care at this time of year when walking on or near Norfolk's cliffs, as rainfall soaked into the soil and made collapses more likely. 

A stern warning had to be issued after two people were seen trying to climb up a section of collapsed cliff between Walcott Ostend and Happisburgh on Friday.

The pillbox is one of around 28,000 such structures built around the British coast during the Second World War in response to the threat of German invasion.

If a landing force attempted to storm the coastline, they would have given cover to machine gunners and mortar operators fighting them off. 

Happisbugh was heavily defended in the early years of the war and there were several other pillboxes installed nearby.

There is another brick pillbox a short distance north-west, directly in front of Happisburgh Lighthouse, and the remains of a concrete pillbox stand upside down on the beach further north. This pillbox is thought to have fallen from the cliffs in the 1960s due to erosion. 




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