At the start of World War II, Burnham Estuary was a relatively quiet, undefended deep river channel. However, as Nazi forces quickly occupied France, the British Navy and Army suddenly realised a deep and undefended river channel would be the perfect point to land an invasion force, almost directly outside of London. Measures were needed to defend the area… and fast.
In 1940, pillboxes sprung up in the area, several directly on the Estuary sea wall, and also dotted a little further inland. The estuary was also laid with mines and cables (or booms) to damage any enemy ships that sailing through the area.
However, it still wasn’t enough.
In 1941, the estuary minefield was expanded significantly and a control tower was constructed for the- its slightly higher vantage point gave an extremely clear view across the entire estuary.
This control tower was unique and remains so to this day, with a hexagonal design, it has a 360 degree view of the area surrounding it. Occupants of the tower could open fire out of 17 gun slots and its clear view across the estuary ensured no vessel could enter or leave the area without this tower being aware of it.
With the tower being constructed out of 2 ft thick concrete and having shutters that could drop at a moment’s notice to defend the inside from attacks, it’s no surprise that this structure has survived to this day in relatively good condition. Although the inside is devoid of any sort of comforts, with the structure being stripped bare right back to the concrete, its historical significance is still clear for all to see.
One of the most unique things about this building is the simple fact that it still stands, given its rarity. There is only one other building like it in the entire UK- its twin exists just outside of Oban, Scotland (about 420 miles, or 10 hours driving away). The fact this building is only one of two, yet has stood the test of time and still stands in a good condition today, makes this WWII building a very rare specimen.
Although there is no vehicular access, there is a public footpath. You have to walk around the edge of a field in order to access the building. Note the occasional pillbox you will see throughout the area. Also bear in mind across the channel, the MOD have a testing facility on Foulness Island. While that won’t effect your visit to the Control Tower, drone users should bear in mind restricted airspace is in effect over the water.
Last Updated on 6 December 2023 by Michael