Burnham Minefield Control Tower - Atlas Obscura

Burnham Minefield Control Tower

Burnham-on-Crouch, England

This observation tower is one of two of its kind that still exist in the United Kingdom. 


During World War II, as the Nazis seized power over Europe, it dawned on the British War Office that an invasion was looking increasingly likely, and the coastline of the United Kingdom was nowhere near ready to defend against it, particularly around the River Crouch Estuary.

The War Office set out to arm the undefended area with the quick construction of pillboxes as well as laying mines and booms in the estuary. But that seemingly wasn’t enough; In 1941, the minefield was expanded and a control tower was constructed to overlook the entire estuary.

This two-story tower was built with maximum defense in mind. Its concrete walls are two feet thick and there are 17 gun slots built into the wall. The main window on the top floor had a shutter built in with the ability to quickly shut in the event of coming under fire.

Once the war was finished, the minefield was cleared and operations at the control tower were shut down. After that, the building was left to the greatest nature of all: time. However, the building has withstood time and still stands in good structural condition to this day.

The building has been stripped down to its concrete structure and the top floor is now only useful for birds to nest and poop everywhere. But its historical importance and the role it played in defending the estuary is there for all to explore.

One thing that makes this building so unique is the fact it is only one of two in existence, its structural twin is located about 400 miles away in Oban, Scotland. While many WWII-era buildings will continue to survive for many years to come and many now stand as museums, not many, particularly of such rarity, stand frozen in time like the tower at Burnham on Crouch.

Know Before You Go

Although there is no vehicular access, there is a public footpath. You have to walk around the edge of a field in order to access the building. Note the occasional pillbox you will see throughout the area. Also bear in mind that across the channel, the MOD have a testing facility on Foulness Island. While that won't affect your visit to the Control Tower, drone users should bear in mind that restricted airspace is in effect over the water.

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