I’m sure that most of you will be familiar with the rather drab looking pebble dash square structure on Patterson’s Walk. This deliberately camouflaged building is the best example of a Type 26 Pill Box on the West Sussex coast and was built in 1941 to be part of the ‘costal crust’ national defences against a then anticipated invasion during WWII.
A few months ago members of the History and Conservation Groups lead by Pete Coe, Simon Cornish and Ed Miller attempted to find the keys for the box and open it to determine whether it would be possible to restore the box to become an educational asset for the village. Their first efforts were hampered by two completely seized locks so with the help of a good locksmith, a former Police Officer who had experience in breaking and entering, access was gained and new locks fitted.
Thankfully the inside was found to be in fairly good condition, the outside of the three apertures had been bricked up in the past but the inside still clearly shows the stepped opening used to widen the field of view and fire while protecting the soldiers inside. The original wooden shelves used to support the machine guns on are still in place although badly decayed.
With this positive find the group started looking to create a restoration project and the first step was to remove the 800 litres of rain water that had penetrated the concrete over a number of years.
On 28th July a bucket party of villagers helped by our MP Sir Peter Bottomley formed a chain to bail out the box. Water was removed and taken down the beach to the waters edge. It was quite a buzz and completed quickly in 20 minutes thanks to the number of volunteers who turned up.
Now firm plans can be developed to stabilise and improve the structure to make it safe for future educational use.
Meanwhile research continues to find out as much of the history of our Pill Box and of the local wartime defences as possible.
More articles will follow as the restoration continues and the story behind the box is revealed.
If anyone has any information or photos regarding any of the wartime defences of Ferring please get in touch especially anyone who remembers it before it was bricked up.
We are also looking for grants and funding to help with moving this forward.
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Article and photos by Mary Coe