Monument record MYO5249 - Machine Gun Firing Range


The machine gun range lies just to the north-east of the cannon butts, and is numbered as ‘22’ on the 1945 airfield plan and labelled as ‘M.G. (machine gun) Range (6 Point)’. The main surviving part is the butts themselves, formed by a c.40m long buttressed brick wall standing to over 6m in height, supporting a substantial sand scarp or bank to the south side. Positioned some 3m to the south-east of the butts, and running parallel to them, is a linear depression forming the catch pit or trench. The covered firing point was positioned some 7.50m south-east of the catch pit, and c.14m south-east of the butts themselves. This has been largely demolished, and the principal remains are formed by the concrete pad which formed the base and a few brick pillars supporting the former roof.


Grid reference SE 5916 5576 (point)
Map sheet SE55NE
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

The machine gun range is not shown on the 1942 camouflage plan but, as previously noted, this plan may have been simplified. On the 1945 airfield, the site is shown as extending beyond the northern edge of the airfield. This area is divided into two parts, the eastern part (numbered ‘22’) is identified in the key as ‘M.G. (machine gun) Range (6 Point)’.

The 1945 airfield plan depicts the machine gun range as an east-west aligned structure at the north end, longer than that at the cannon butts, with several conjoined rectangles of varying widths to the south and another to the north. There are no tracks or taxi-ways leading to it, although the short road or taxi-way noted above runs from the dispersal pits to the west, ending in an apparent turning circle almost in front of the gun range. The more detailed Ordnance Survey 25” map of 1967-69 shows the site as comprising a wall with a deep scarp running parallel to its south-eastern side (see figure 5B). There is then a parallel ditch set a short distance to the south-east, with a-second-long parallel structure to its south-east again - this latter structure is rectangular in plan, and is open sided with ‘posts’ to the ditch but with small buildings at either end. There is also a linear earthwork bank between the northern wall and the adjacent cannon butts, presumably to catch any misaligned ammunition.

A typical 25 yard machine gun range consisted of a covered firing point, a sand area, a catch pit or trench for ricochets, and the sand-banked brick butt wall at the north end. The firing point was essentially a narrow open-fronted brick-built shed with a mono-pitch corrugated asbestos cement roof, with each gallery or bay open to the front, separated by either metal posts of brick pillars. The butt wall, which supported the sand bank, was the largest structure. A standard design for a firing shelter or firing point, dating to 1940 (Air Ministry 800/43) was issued for use in construction, and shows variations that could be implemented for different types of small arms.

The best preserved structure of the machine gun range is the butts. Following vegetation clearance, they could be seen to be aligned north-east/south-west, although in the following description they are considered to be aligned east-west. The butts have maximum external dimensions of 40.0m east west by 9.50m north-south, and stand up to 6.10m in height. The main structural part of the butts comprises the rear (north) retaining wall and two smaller side walls, which are built of light red machine-made bricks laid in English Garden Wall bond and set with a cement mortar (see figures 18 and 19). The rear or north wall stands over 6.0m tall and survives to its full height. The north elevation has a chamfered inset set approximately half way up its height and the central section is supported by six stepped buttresses, each of three stages with tumbled-in. Below the inset and between the buttresses, the wall is pierced by two rows of ceramic drainpipes which drain the scarp/bank on the south side; there may be a third row of pipes now buried below ground level.At the top of the eastern end of the wall, metal fittings may once have held a flagpole in place, used to fly a flag when live firing was taking place. The south elevation of the rear/north wall of the butts projects beyond the side walls at either end. These projections are largely blank, with a chamfered inset placed at a high level.

The side walls of the butts are now both damaged and have partly separated from the rear wall but they appear originally to have been of similar form. The side walls decrease in height evenly from north to south, and are supported by a central stepped; there is also an internal pier or projection in line with the external buttress. On either side of the buttress, the side walls are pierced by three rows of ceramic drainpipes, the lowest row being barely visible above ground level. The base of the south side of the butts is formed by a 3.70m high south-facing sand and earth scarp, contained within the rear and side walls; the top of the scarp is set at 18.00m AOD. The south elevation of the rear wall rises above the top of the scarp for 2.25m, with an inset approximately half way up its height; the inset is set at the same height as the chamfered inset on the much taller projections to either side. The main rear wall is topped by a course of headers laid on edge. Positioned some 3m to the south-east of the butts, and running parallel to them, is the catch pit or trench, water-filled at the time of the survey. This is formed by a linear depression with rounded ends, measuring a maximum of c.32m long by c.13m wide. Both long sides of the catch pit are up to between 1.20m and 1.40m deep, but the northern side is much more steeply scarped, being less than a third of the width of the south side.

The firing point or building was positioned some 7.50m south-east of the catch pit, and c.14m southeast of the butts themselves. It has been largely demolished, the principal remains now comprising the concrete pad which formed the base. This measures at least 29.0m long by 3.70m wide; the exact position of the eastern end is obscured by a spread of demolition rubble. Towards the eastern end, two of the brick pillars which once formed part of the open-front towards the butts remain, as does a section of the brick rear wall of the firing point. The pillars stand to a maximum height of 2.7m and have a bolt with a washer projecting from the top. The bolts would have been used to secure the timbers of the mono-pitch corrugated asbestos cement roof. Only two sections of the rear wall surviving, standing to a maximum height of 2.25m, with rendering to the external (south) face. At the west end of the pad, brick walls visible in plan only suggest that there was a separate cell within the building here.

Ed Dennison, 2020, A1237 York Northern Outer Ring Road (Unpublished document). SYO2595.

Sources/Archives (1)

  • --- Unpublished document: Ed Dennison. 2020. A1237 York Northern Outer Ring Road.

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Nov 24 2021 11:07AM


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