Posted: 19 August 2009 19:17

I've been meaning to visit roadblocks at Sharpsbridge and Buckham Hill on account of a type of large concrete block that has been recorded at both locations.

I often see these blocks (and chamfered cubes seen in Sussex) referred to as "coffins" and it annoys me, as there was a specific type of anti-tank obstacle known as such - see the Pillboxopedia listing to the right to see an illustration.

Roadblock recce

No, the type of block I'm looking at here is seemingly known as a buttress (that's what Canadian engineer documents call them), presumably due to the shape. Buttresses are blocks that are taller and sometimes angular; they might contain slots for rails to be inserted horizontally across the road (or railway line, as they were frequently employed in railblocks too), or they may be plain and sited to reinforce a weak point in the defences.

My first stop was at Buckham Hill to view one such buttress situated just south of a fork in the road, visible through an immaculate hedge.

With no other remains visible, I moved on to Sharpsbridge where a bridge crosses over a stop line.

Roadblock recce

The bridge and the road leading to it is very narrow (little more than one vehicle wide), and is a perfect choke point at which to block the road.

The photo at left shows the buttress I'd come to see in the undergrowth to the right; probably best seen once the vegetation dies down later in the year.

The bridge is covered by a Type 28A pillbox situated on private land about 100m away, and, according to the Defence of Britain Project database, has a holdfast for a Hotchkiss 6-pounder gun.

The photo below shows the buttress; it's nearly 2m high, making it a substantial obstacle.

Buttress and Type 28 pillbox

Below is a view looking over the buttress towards the pillbox.

Roadblock recce

Again, no other remains, but the survival of the buttress and pillbox give a good indication of the defences of this bridge.

- Pete



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An irregularly-shaped anti-tank obstacle, triangular in section and increasing in height from front to rear. Complex and time-consuming to produce, coffins were rendered obsolete by 1941. The term is occasionally incorrectly applied to buttresses and a distinctive style of cube seen in Sussex.


Anti-tanks blocks, popularly known as dragon's teeth. Not to be confused with smaller blocks known as pimples, cubes can be upwards of 1m square. Many examples in Sussex have apexes or chamfered edges, leading to them being incorrectly recorded as coffins.

Defence of Britain Project

A large project run by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) 1995-2002, collecting data on 20th century military structures submitted by a team of some 600 volunteers. The result was a database of nearly 20,000 records which is available online. The anti-invasion section of the database contains nearly 500 entries for East Sussex.


Generic term for a hardened field defensive structure usually constructed from concrete and/or masonry. Pillboxes were built in numerous types and variants depending on location and role.

Stop line

A physical continuous anti-tank barrier, normally a river and/or railway line, often defended by pillboxes. Stop line crossings (roads, railways and bridges) were to be made impassable.

Type 28 pillbox

A pillbox designed to house a small artillery piece (typically a WW1 6-pounder gun), usually sited to cover a bridge or other defile. Type 28a variant had an additional compartment for infantry defence.

This site is copyright © Peter Hibbs 2006 - 2018. All rights reserved.

Hibbs, Peter Roadblock recce (28) - Sharpsbridge (2018) Available at: Accessed: 14 December 2018

The information on this website is intended solely to describe the ongoing research activity of The Defence of East Sussex Project; it is not comprehensive or properly presented. It is therefore NOT suitable as a basis for producing derivative works or surveys!