Wartime relic on public view
Published: Wednesday, 5 April, 2017
A little-known piece of wartime history will be open to the public over Easter.
“The Gatehouse” at Bond’s Mill, near Stonehouse was built in 1940 when Britain stood on the brink of invasion. As a pillbox, the building was part of Stop Line Green – Bristol’s outer defences against a German army which was expected to invade in South East England. It was unique in that it doubled as a platform for an anti-aircraft gun, which was mounted on the roof.
Thanks to the Cotswold Canals Trust and the Stonehouse History Group, the building will be open between 12 noon and 4 pm on Easter Saturday (15th April), Easter Sunday (16th April) and Easter Monday (17th April). Visitors will be able to see the inside of the building and a special exhibition about its history, Bond’s Mill itself and the Stroudwater Canal.
“This is a great opportunity to view a hidden historic gem which is a very local illustration of Britain’s huge war effort,” said Lois Francis, the Cotswold Canals Trust’s Education Co-ordinator. “There must be hundreds of people out there who either had direct involvement with what went on, or have family connections with someone who did. We hope people will come along to find out more – and perhaps take the opportunity to explore the canal at the same time.”
Bond’s Mill was taken over by the Sperry Gyroscope Company in 1938 as a back-up “shadow factory” for its parent facility at Brentford in West London, which was vulnerable to enemy bombing. The company manufactured gyrocompasses, altimeters and other instruments for aircraft and searchlight systems.
An aerial photograph of the Bond’s Mill factory was discovered in the German Luftwaffe’s target archives at the end of the Second World War - an indicator of its importance.
In the longer term, the Cotswold Canals Trust hopes to begin regularly opening The Gatehouse to the public at weekends and on Bank Holidays if enough volunteers can be found to staff it.