Campaign launched to save important part of town’s heritage

St Neots

St Neots - Credit: Archant

A campaign to save a historic Second World War pill box in St Neots is gathering pace after more than 250 people responded to a social network post.

The F22 pill box is thought to be one of about 1,000 to have survived the ravages of time and is on land behind the former youth centre in Priory Road that has been earmarked for 14 houses. In 1940, Winston Churchill appointed General William Ironside to draw up a final defence line of Britain and 28,000 pill boxes were built close to coastlines, rivers, canals and railways. They were manned with troops from the Home Guard with machine guns and the hope was that they could hold off a German invasion before reinforcements arrived.

The campaign has been launched by St Neots town councillor Barry Chapman who wants to see the pill box, which he admits is in a bad state of repair, protected and restored and is supported by the St Neots Museum. He told The Hunts Post that the planning application places the structure behind a fence in the private garden of one of the new homes.

“The pill box was built to provide an armoured defence across St Neots Common and close to the river,” said Cllr Chapman.

“The common would have been set with mines, anti-tank devices and barbed wire. It has been allowed to deteriorate and has been neglected, but it is an important part of St Neots’ history and a reminder that in 1940 St Neots was preparing to be on the frontline of the Second World War.”

Cllr Chapman posted details of his campaign on Facebook on Friday and has been inundated with messages of support from people who oppose the plan and would like to see the pill box protected for future generations. He has also written to English Heritage to enquire whether the pill box can be listed in order to offer the building some protection.

Liz Davies, curator of St Neots Museum, is backing the campaign and has been down to the site to take some photographs.

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“The museum certainly does support saving and preserving this pill box and we think the developer should think again. So much of the history of the Second World War has been lost so it is really important that we protect this integral part of the town’s history.”

The planning application for the 14 new homes has been submitted by Almaren Homes Ltd, and The Hunts Post contacted the developer’s agents, Frank Shaw Associates, but the company failed to provide a response.