Back Narford, Norfolk

A rare surviving example of a ‘hairpin’ roadblock that blocked a small bridge over the river Nar and formed part of a wider Stop Line.

It was well-known to British military planners that the Germans had made extensive use of the road network in France and the Low Countries in order to move their armoured columns. Road blocks were of some importance to British anti-invasion strategy and some of those established in 1940 were intended as semi-permanent defences and were made of concrete.

Simple roadblocks were formed by concrete obstacles, with more sophisticated designs involving large concrete buttresses with sockets across which could be placed large steel poles or short sections of railway track. Such defences had the obvious advantage of allowing friendly traffic to use the road with the steel rails being placed across to form a barrier only when necessary.

Two kinds of such roadblocks emerged in 1940. One method was simply to put steel poles or rails vertically into slots in the road; this was often called a Hedgehog. The second was to bend or weld the metal so that it lay at a 60 degree angle which could then be slotted into pre-prepared squares dug in the road and were known as hairpins.

A Narford in west Norfolk the remains of a hairpin roadblock remain on the roadside. Originally they would have been accompanied by other defences intended to protect the bridge over the river Nar. This defended crossing formed part of the Stop Line that ran from King’s Lynn east across the county to Harleston on the border with Suffolk.

Road block defences did not remain in place long after the end of the war; many were dismantled while the conflict was still ongoing, even from as early as 1941 when Britain’s anti-invasion strategy was based on a more mobile defence.

Although the remains at Narford are only minor in extent, they in fact represent a rare survival and give some impression of the kinds of defences put in place at hundreds of places across England.

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