Skip to Main Content
Morecambe Bay Partnership logologo-black.png
Make a donation

Support our 2024 appeal today Find out more and donate to help young people

2016 06 29 13 58 50
Culture & Heritage

Defending the Docks

Centred on Barrow and Walney, ‘Defending the Docks’ was a military heritage community recording project. Rooted in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning, the project provided skills development opportunities for young people and focussed on Barrow’s nationally important military defence landscape.

Defending the Docks

We worked with schools and volunteers to develop skills in computer science, digital technology, coding, virtual reality, mathematical surveying, engineering design and study of materials to scientifically record Second World War archaeological remains.

Barrow has long been associated with shipbuilding, maritime industry, and innovations in military defence engineering. To protect these industries, significant military defences were built in Barrow, on Walney Island and in the surrounding area. Alongside those of the Channel Islands, Walney has one of the most complete collections of historic coastal military defences in Britain. The area constitutes a regionally significant group of related and interlinked structures.

Many of the structures remain intact, however, they are subject to vandalism, coastal erosion, and decay. It is important that the remaining structures are recorded before they disappear entirely.

We worked with communities around Walney and Barrow to gather evidence for the military defence of the area. Volunteers were trained in desk-based research skills, mathematical survey, data gathering and use of 3D modelling and Geographical Information System software. Participants used these skills to produce a professional record of extant military installations and learn the programming techniques required to contribute their research to a Virtual Reality (VR) model of the wartime landscape.

The VR model re-imagines the landscape of Second World War Walney and Barrow, immersing the participants into the military installations, demonstrating their extent and how they worked together to operate as a network of defence. We used the model in schools to support history and STEM learning. The model was used as part of the community exhibitions and will be available for schools to use and develop beyond the lifetime of the project.

Key aims

The project aimed to:

  • Equip adults and young people with new STEM skills
  • Increase awareness of Barrow’s nationally important military defence landscape
  • Create a unique virtual reality model allowing people to immerse themselves in the past landscape
  • Survey and record archaeological remains
  • Record memories digitally
  • Engage schools by recording sites and creating content
  • Deliver a community exhibition and heritage interpretation
  • Create a permanent archive available online


This project has been made possible through generous support from Orsted (Walney Extension Skills Fund), BAE Systems Community Investment Fund, and the Sir John Fisher Foundation.

Find out what life was like in Barrow during the Second World War

We interviewed people who grew up in Barrow and Walney in the 1940s recording their memories of the time.

Listen to their stories

Interested in our school resources?

We can digitally share our Virtual Reality experience, printable worksheets, and supporting documents with your school.

Contact Us