Roadblock in Percy Street


In the summer of 1940, Britain stood alone, facing a Europe dominated by the forces of Nazi Germany. The prospect of invasion was real, so a massive construction programme was started to create the necessary defences to repulse this threat. Coastal defences and lines of inland pillboxes were constructed. At the same time, towns were encircled with defences, the aim of which was to control the main road connections so restricting the movement of any invading force.

Roadblocks were built on all roads which led to the town centre. While most of these have disappeared, some traces remain. A common design of roadblock consisted of a series of sockets which were dug about four feet into the ground, normally fitted with wooden covers. In times of high risk, these covers were removed and lengths of steel – RSJs or railway track – inserted into the  sockets, protruding about three feet above ground level, so creating a strong barrier. Usually consisting of three parallel, offset holes, these sockets have often proved resistant to subsequent decades of resurfacing.

Others were outside St. Michael’s church, on the north end of Bridge Street, on Grey Place, at the junction between Prudhoe Street and Dovecote Lane, and at the entrance to the tunnel next to Turnbull’s the butchers.