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Clyde Defences, Portkil Battery, Searchlight Battery

Searchlight Battery (First World War)

Site Name Clyde Defences, Portkil Battery, Searchlight Battery

Classification Searchlight Battery (First World War)

Alternative Name(s) Portkil Point

Canmore ID 239751

Site Number NS28SE 39.05

NGR NS 25284 80241

NGR Description From NS 25284 80241 and NS 25193 80215

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Rosneath
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Dumbarton
  • Former County Dunbartonshire

World War One Audit of Surviving Remains (5 July 2013)

Two Searchlights and what appears to be a conneting firing trench are shown on a 1916 plan of Portkil Battery defences (The National Archives WO 78/4396).

One searchlight emplacement (at NS 25257 80227) is still complete. It appears that a concrete wall leads from the emplacement to the ENE, which may be a continuation of the firing trench, as shown on the 1916 plan.

The Searchlight to the west was according to the 1916 map attached to the east side of a pillbox (Blockhouse) (see NS28SE 39.04). It is unclear if the searchlight survives within the current building at NS 25193 80215.

Information from HS/RCAHMS World War One Audit Project (GJB) and RCAHMS (AKK) 5 July 2013.

Archaeology Notes

NS28SE 39.05 25284 802 41 and 25257 80227

Two possible searchlight platforms are visible on postwar vertical air photographs (CPE/Scot/ 350, 5209-5210, flown 17 April 1948) immediately E of Portkil Point.

Information from RCAHMS (DE), March 2003


Project (March 2013 - September 2013)

A project to characterise the quantity and quality of the Scottish resource of known surviving remains of the First World War. Carried out in partnership between Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.

Note (7 July 2014)

RCAHMS aerial photography appears to show that the W most searchlight survives, incorporated into the current house.

Information from RCAHMS (AKK) 7 July 2014.

Field Visit (13 December 2016)

In the run-up to the First World War searchlight batteries (Nos. 1 and 2) were installed at Fort Matilda (NS27NE 97) on the south side of the Clyde estuary and at Portkil (No. 3 and 4) on the north side to illuminate the river between those places. Whilst a total of three searchlights were eventually installed at Portkil (The National Archives: WO78/5189, dated 3 May 1909), only two were active at any one time. No. 4 searchlight was converted to a shelter sometime before May 1909 and a new emplacement constructed to the west (see NS28SE 39.04).

Searchlights No.3 and No.4 stood about 28m apart just above the foreshore at Portkil and they were linked by a trench (NS28SE 39.25). The eastern searchlight (No.4) now forms part of an occupied store and No.3 lies within a private garden. Neither could be accessed on the date of visit. However, No.3 appears to be in good condition although erosion of the adjacent beach has exposed a low concrete wall about 4m in front. This may have marked the front edge of an earth glacis that once provided protection to the two searchlights and the passageway that originally linked them. The only part of the emplacement that was not embanked was the shore side of No.4 searchlight and the retaining walls that extended out from its SSW and ENE sides are still standing. The north wall of the linking passageway has been entirely removed. The south wall has been retained but it has been reduced in height along part of its length and at least one gap created, probably to allow access to the foreshore.

Visited by HES Survey and Recording (AKK) 13 December 2016.


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