If you were talking a wander through a nature reserve in North London one day, you might notice a rather shabby looking brick hut peeking out of the bushes.
You might wonder what such an ugly looking thing is doing in such a nice park, or if you know your military history, wonder why there’s a WW2 pill box in a nature reserve. Then you’ll remember that this is the Bentley Priory nature reserve, and just behind those trees is the grand mansion which was used by the RAF during WW2 as a command base.
Today it’s a museum and block of flats, but 70 years ago, it was a critical part of the British military and had to be protected against attack — from the air, and should the Germans invade, from ground assault.
The pill box — officially a Type 24 design — is constructed of concrete with red brick linings. It’s a stronger than normal design, possibly reflecting the importance of what it defended and the likelihood that attackers would be more heavily armed to get at such an key military target.
There are five embrasures which would have allowed light machine guns to fire out at the invaders.
Once, to get close would have been perilous and to go inside fraught with danger, but today the worst that can happen is a snagged jacket on some brambles or a tree branch.
Internally it retains the Y-plan anti-ricochet wall, and the walls have been given some loving attention by the local youths.
Once you go around the internal wall, it’s pitch black inside, but surprisingly devoid of creepy crawlies, and a camera flash or small torch illuminates the space nicely.
If you want to have a look inside, you might need to do so soonish, as there is a proposal to brick up the door and the building given over to new occupants — as a bat roost.
At which point it will become as off-limits to casual visitors today as it once was back the 1940s, but for a more peaceful reason.
Location map and local interesting places
- 3] Bentley Priory Museum
- 4] Headstone Manor Museum
- 5] Heath Robinson Museum
- 6] RAF Museum
- 7] Barnet Museum
- 8] Stephens Collection
- 9] London Motorcycle Museum
- 10] de Havilland Aircraft Museum
- 11] Brent Museum
- 12] Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery
- 13] Battle of Britain Bunker
- 14] Fenton House and Garden
- 15] Kenwood House
- 16] Heathrow Exhibition
- 20] Billy Fury Way