Bid to save rare wartime pillbox in Southwold and Reydon

The Royal British Legion, Southwold Rotary and Southwold and Reydon Society are launching a campaign

The Royal British Legion, Southwold Rotary and Southwold and Reydon Society are launching a campaign to get a first world war pill box at the entrance to Southwold renovated and opened as a tourist attraction.PCSO Gary Wallace , Chris Ure, Keith Rolfe, John Perkins,Sue Doy, Jonathan Hadgraft and Alan Greening. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A campaign is under way in Southwold and Reydon to restore a rare First World War pillbox as part of an effort to mark the centenary year of the outbreak of the conflict.

The building, believed to be unique in design, stands neglected and covered by undergrowth on the Reydon side of Mights Bridge.

But now the Southwold and Reydon Society (SRS) has joined forces with the town's Rotary Club, the Royal British Legion, the Southwold Arts Festival and others in a bid to launch a restoration project.

Its aim is to clean up the pillbox and preserve it as a wartime landmark.

With the SRS co-ordinating the groups involved, its secretary, John Perkins, said: 'The society is concentrating its efforts on organising a group of people to restore the First World War pillbox at Mights Bridge – which is thought to be the only one of its type still in existence.

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'It's in a pretty sorry state at the moment and desperately in need of structural repairs, but we are told it's the only one of its type still standing and therefore it's unique.'

The pillbox is believed to have been built in 1914 and was also used in the Second World War.

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Mr Perkins said: 'Many people do not know it's there and it is virtually invisible from the road. Inside it is covered in graffiti and littered with cans and bottles.

'The society's aim is to restore it to its original condition to help mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. It would be not only a focal point for people entering and leaving Southwold and Reydon but also a reminder of what the war meant to the area and its people all those years ago.

'We are pretty sure it was there in the first year of the First World War and it was also in use in the Second World War, but after that it has fallen into disrepair.'

Over the years, several efforts have been made to restore the site and earlier this year the pillbox was discussed at a Reydon Parish Council meeting.

'There have been many efforts in the past, which have all failed, mainly on the question of who owns the land on which the pillbox is based,' Mr Perkins added.

'However, we have now established that, and with the joint community effort, we hope it will become a landmark.

'Local architect Alan Greening and builder Brian Duncan have agreed to draw up an outline plan which will tell us what needs to be done, and what it might cost. We then need to get down to the all-important task of finding the money.'

Although the restoration plans are still taking shape, a fund-raising drive is in the pipeline and one of the ideas being mooted is for a walkway around the pillbox with display boards.

It is hoped this would allow it to be used for visits – particularly by groups of schoolchildren studying local history.

Chris Ure, of the Southwold Arts Festival, said he was happy to have been asked to support the efforts to restore the pillbox.

'I discovered it overgrown a number of years ago and made inquiries to see if it could be restored,' he said. 'When you start looking into things and speak to the Pillbox Society you find many are lost, and some are quite rare.

'I felt that from a historical point of view it would be really good for children to see it in a restored state to link into their studies. It would be a shame if it got to such a state it had to be dismantled.

'The important thing is that it's a project for both Southwold and Reydon. The pillbox is there to defend Southwold and, being on the Reydon side of Mights Bridge, it belongs to both communities.

'We are now going to get as much information about the pillbox as we can. It is a quite a rare design as all the pillboxes were slightly different – and if it does prove to be unique, we'd hope there might be some national and local funding available to make the project a success.'

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