For anyone who has gone for a walk or cycle along the canal you will have no doubt noticed some small brick structures tucked into the hedgerows, and it’s very easy to walk by these without a second thought.

But eighty years-ago these tiny, somewhat insignificant structures were a small but important part of the country’s efforts during the Second World War.

In 1940, as Hitler’s war machine rolled across Europe, there was a very real threat of invasion, which resulted in a series of ‘stop-lines’ being created right across Britain in an effort to delay any Nazi invasion.

One of these was the Taunton stop line – a 50 mile defensive ‘wall’ spanning Somerset, Devon and Dorset, and these pillboxes dotted along the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal formed part of this military strategy.

The Taunton Stop Line is arguably the best-preserved stop line in the country, and it begins at the coast near Highbridge in North Somerset, with the line of defences running down from the Pawlett Hams and along the River Parrett to Bridgwater. From here, it tracked the bank of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal southward to Creech St. Michael, where it then joined and followed the dried-up bed of the old Taunton & Chard Canal. Near the village of Ilton, the stop line traced the route of the Great Western Railway southward until it reached just north of Chard Junction, where it then followed the route shared by the Southern Railway and the River Axe. Here, it briefly crossed over into Dorset in a couple of places, and then finally followed the course of the River Axe into the seaside town of Axmouth, Devon, where the Stop Line ended.

In part 2, I will look at the defensive strategies used in constructing the Taunton Stop Line.

May 2024