This World War II Pillbox is disguised as a ruined farmhouse, a masterpiece of military trickery

First on the Northumberland Coast Walk is the village of Creswell. It is undeniable that there are many beautiful and interesting things to spot on this route, but not everything is as it seems. Just north of Creswell on the road sits a building that appears just to be a ruined, abandoned farmhouse. There are many such buildings around the British countryside, especially in the area surrounding the Pennines, but this farmhouse isn’t in fact a ruin at all, or for that matter even a farmhouse. Rather, it is a Pillbox that was built in the Second World War with the goal of deliberately deceiving the Germans. It is an object of military deception.

In the early years of World War II, from 1941-1942, there was a serious fear that Hitler would attempt an outright invasion of Britain. Although thankfully such an attack never materialised as Germany never attained Air or Naval superiority over the North Sea in the Battle of Britain, the country was nonetheless extensively fortified as a contingency. Even in Sunderland there are many remaining fortifications and pillboxes still visible, such as those in the fields of Herrington, and the River Wear itself was prepared as a potential defensive line.

However, this specific Pillbox, built in 1940, was designed with the goal of catching German invaders off guard on the assumption the Nazis may have attempted an amphibious landing at Northumberland (as unlikely that was) and to attempt to contain them on the beach. They would have entered the area, saw only an old farmhouse at the top of the hill, and effectively been ambushed by the defenders. Noticeably its windows are designed only as slits, as per most military structures, for allowing one way machine gun fire. The structure is also fortified and has a “blast wall.”

The structure was made a listed building in September 2020 and is thus recognised as an important aspect of Northumberland’s Heritage.