Skip to main content

Published on Monday 25 March 2024

A historic, black and white picture showing one of the radomes.

New signs and art installations at Friars Cliff, and across Steamer Point Nature Reserve, will reveal Christchurch’s natural qualities and important historical contributions to national defence.

Funded through local development contributions, works to introduce the new installations, as well as upgrades to existing signage, will take place on 26 and 27 March.

At the start of the Second World War, a site was established at Steamer Point off Seaway Avenue to conduct secret, nationally essential research into military radar.

This research was undertaken by the Air Defence Experimental Establishment (ADEE) which was also based at Somerford. In 1943, ADEE moved to Worcestershire, and the two sites were taken over by the Signals Research and Development Establishment (SRDE) to conduct groundbreaking research into military communication systems.

From the 1960s onwards, this work included development of systems including Britain’s Skynet, the world’s first geostationary satellite system for secure military communications.

From this, three circular concrete bases remain in place on the cliff today, previously providing the foundations for a large, 40-foot-wide aerial dish and two smaller dishes which were shielded by radomes; unique coverings which were beehive-like in appearance.

Research into mine detection, night vision systems, fibre-optic communication techniques and more was also conducted at the facility.

To recognise ADEE and SRDEs critical contributions to radar and communication systems development, three new steel signs will be situated alongside the existing concrete bases.

Paul De Jonghe, Vice-Chair of the Friars Cliff Residents Association, said:

“Steamer Point has a fascinating cultural heritage, and around the area military research work was conducted of national and international importance. Many people will be unaware of this, and we hope the new signs will help people appreciate the significance of the work they did.”

The wider project will also look to engage visitors in the natural, environmental qualities of Steamer Point Nature Reserve, comprising of woodland and aquatic habitats.

A host of new wayfinding markers will be situated throughout the reserve, guiding visitors on an educational woodland walk stretching from Friars Cliff to Highcliffe Castle.

Six new wooden wildlife sculptures, accompanied by informational plaques and brass rubbings, will also raise awareness for the vast species of unique animals and birds which inhabit the nature reserve.

Councillor Andy Martin, Portfolio Holder for Customer, Communications and Culture at BCP Council, said:

“We are fortunate to live in a culturally rich area of great historical significance, and we should look to celebrate this wherever possible.

“I hope these new installations will help to draw visitors to the fantastic locations of Friars Cliff and Steamer Point Nature Reserve, and engage people, including younger demographics, in the important history of our region.”

Have you encountered a problem with this page?