top of page

Lancashire At

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire






Pill Boxes and defensive structures

It is perhaps hard to imagine now, but there was a time when invasion by Nazi Germany seemed inevitable. We were losing the war. We were largely on our own (America had not yet joined the cause). As the Battle Of Britain seemed to be on the brink of collapse with huge losses to our air defence and the retreat from Europe at Dunkirk, Britain prepared itself for invasion. "Never Surrender" Churchill said, and so we built defensive structures all over the country not just around London and the South Coast. This was going to be a battle to the death involving guerilla tactics and terrorist-like thinking. Plans were in place to fight to the last man and woman, like the French Resistance had done.

036 (2) (640x480)
023 (640x480)
032 (640x480)
009 (640x480)
019 (640x480)
459 (640x480)
462 (640x480)
468 (640x480)
012 (640x480)
009 (640x480)

Above: A Pillbox on the A58 between Rochdale and Heywood. It is right on the road and commands a good view up and down the valley as well as defending this main link road. At the back there is a very steep drop - so the Home Guard would have had to have watched their step on a dark foggy night!  A locked gate prevents access inside.

021 (640x480) (2)

Above and right: Three photos of the Pillbox on the B6391 Chapeltown Road in Turton.

Set back slightly from the main road, but commanding views up the valley and up and down the road itself.


This is on a public footpath on land belonging to the resevoir and so is easily accessed. You can go in and have a look around and imagine you are the last line of defence in Turton!

In the wilds of the moors around Burnley you are surprised to come across this interesting site. The pillbox has a grass topping which could well have been there from the start.

Guarding the road junction of Halifax Road and Back Lane you really wouldn't expect somewhere this remote to be defended. But I guess that is the idea - Surprise!

Note on the bottom right photo the re-use of the anti-tank road blocks being used to hold up the banking. Wonder if these were the ones originally used at this junction?

Find it at SD 905 353.

Can you see it yet? Hidden high up the field at the side of the B6214 from Holcombe to Helmshore sits a Pillbox. It also has superb views across the valley between Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. This is in a farmer's field on private land with no access.

034 (640x529)
030 (640x427)
024 (640x427)
026 (640x427)
Bolton School wiki pillbox
bolton school pillbox3

Bolton School

Above Left: The site before development, the pillbox hidden in the trees.

Above Right: During the new building, the pillbox is, fortunately, saved! Not an easy task, so close to the new build - but it is good to see that they respected the historic importance of the pillbox. Who built it though, and when? Was it the school masters and pupils?

Probably about a decade ago I noticed a strange building in the middle of the grounds of Bolton School. This is a private school and there is no public access. At the time I wasn't as interested in these buildings but, thankfully filed it away in my mind! It looked like a pillbox hidden in the trees. I kept meaning to go back and investigate.....Then I had the opportunity to go. But I was extremely worried that the new Sixth Form Complex would have wiped out the pillbox site.

This is an intriguing site. The pillbox, once hidden, is now very much exposed. It is built of a different stone to the main buildings. And the design is one we have not seen before - do you know which Type it is?

061 (640x427)
057 (640x427)
059 (640x427)

Salmesbury Airfield

This Pillbox at the Salmesbury airfield is in a sorry state. We visited it on a day when tents surrounded it, but it is still surrounded by metal fences as it is deemed unsafe. Could this be due to its design? Are the large metal strengthening rods now causing its destruction as they rust and expand?


This pillbox is much larger than most - no doubt due to its defensive duty. Were there more to protect this important site?


This is viewable from the A59 Myerscough Smithy Road

067 (800x600)
063 (800x600)
066 (800x600)
069 (800x600)
054 (800x600)

Catlow Pillbox, Burnley

Can you see it yet? Catlow pillbox is a very hard one to spot! Above Left: It is just about visible from the main road. Above Right: The site looks like it was originally a Motte - but MAY be Bronze Age (further research needed). Right: More visible from a distance, once you are off the road.

Below Right: The pillbox is dug deep into the ground, making it hard to access now. But probably was similar in its day, as there seems to be defensive gun holes high up in its structure (above the door height) for those inside to defend themselves.

PLEASE NOTE - Catlow pillbox is on PRIVATE PROPERTY and is well fenced off. Access was only gained after we asked permission off the farmer whose land it was on. Please respect the landowner's wishes.

057 (640x480)
046 (640x480)

Standish Pillbox

This pillbox is often hidden by the surrounding trees, but come winter it loses some of its modern camoflage.

Standish pillbox is associated with the Royal Ordnance Factory across the field at Bradley Hall (more to come on that in the future). Here it sits on the nearby B5239 opposite the Owls at Standish restaurant.

These pages, all text and photographs, unless stated, are the copyright of The Brothers B. No reproduction is allowed in any form without prior written permission

ROF Bradley Hall was a Royal Ordnance Factory in World War Two, creating munitions for the Second World War -


bottom of page