Spigot MortarBack Earlham Park, Norwich Norfolk
The spigot mortar, or sometimes known as the ‘Blacker Bombard’ was an anti-tank weapon designed to be used by infantrymen. It was originally intended for the Home Guard, but in fact they were also used by some regular units stationed on coastal defence duties. The Spigot could be used in a variety of ways, but one of the most common was where it was placed on a concrete pedestal with a protruding metal rod upon which the weapon could be fixed. It was able to fire a 20lb high explosive bomb about 80 metres which was able to damage tanks and other armoured vehicles. The rate of fire was between six and twelve shots a minute and as each bomb had to be placed by hand at the front it was deemed important that spigot positions should be camouflaged. While the spigot could be carried and fired from a metal base frame, in the majority of cases a fixed position was deemed most desirable. When used in a static role it was common for a surrounding pit to be dug for the crew of three to five men and this was often reinforced with concrete and provided with lockers for the ammunition. When used in anti-invasion defence spigot mortar posts were combined with other defences, particularly roadblocks.
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As the largest built up area in Norfolk and home to a range of wartime production facilities, the city of Norwich was a major target for any German invasion of England via the North Sea.
In common with other major English cities, including London, Norwich was ringed with a series of anti-invasion defences that comprised pillboxes, anti-tank obstacles and roadblocks. Very little of these fortifications survive; in common with other urban areas, they tended to be removed soon after 1945 and post-war development of the city suburbs has also led to the removal of many defences.
One small, but important, survival is in the grounds of Earlham Hall to the west of Norwich, which is now a municipal park and in the grounds of the University of East Anglia. In one corner of the park, adjacent to the modern Earlham road is the remains of a spigot mortar position, which dates to c.1941.
The Earlham Spigot is typical of many in that the surrounding pit has been filled in, leaving only the top of the concrete pedestal visible, with its protruding steel pivot. In this case, the position was sited next to one of the major roads leading into Norwich and was intended to cover the bridge crossing the river Yare. This bridge was also prepared for demolition in the event of invasion. Although the trace of other defences has gone, the spigot is an important reminder that this was once part of Norwich’s defences.
Later in the war Earlham Hall (now part of the university) was used as a military hospital by the American 8th Air Force. The only trace of this today is the building in the park that is now used as a café.