Conservation and Archaeology

QinetiQ owned or operated sites are home to many species of wildlife, flora and fauna that are of national and international importance. Our commitment to caring for them is an important part of our Corporate Responsibility.

By managing the sites effectively, often in partnership with local and national organisations, we can have a positive effect on the environment in which we work, demonstrate our commitment to our local communities as well as contributing to UK biodiversity.

The MOD Shoeburyness Conservation Group has been committed to preserving the unique environment and history of the area for over 30 years. This section provides information on the work of the group and on some of the fascinating wildlife, natural features and history of the site.

Foulness Heritage Centre

Foulness Heritage Centre

In 2002 the Foulness Conservation & Archaeological Society (FCAS) converted the former Foulness Primary School into the Foulness Heritage Centre. The school had been empty for many years and the renovation work was carried out by volunteers with the aid of grants from 'Awards for All' and QinetiQ. Donations also came from the 'Bishop of Bradwell's Fund' and many well wishers. It opened in February 2003 and has received a constant stream of visitors from both the UK and abroad ever since.

The Heritage Centre is open to members of the public from 12pm-4pm on the first Sunday of the month from April to October. Those wishing to visit the centre will be permitted access to Foulness from 11:45am.

Entering MOD Shoeburyness to visit the Heritage Centre permits you to use the main spine road to travel to and from the centre but for no other purpose or access and visitors must not deviate from this route.

The centre has benefited from a wide range of donated items from Foulness residents past and present, which cover the industry, domestic life and rural pursuits of Foulness through the decades.

In fact, the centre received so much material that it had to close during the winter of 2005/6 to allow the reorganisation of the displays.

The project was also a runner up in the 2003 Sanctuary Award - which is the annual MOD award for the best conservation projects across the entire defence estate.

FCAS also promotes Foulness Island by organising talks, walks and visits to the Heritage Centre throughout the year for clubs, church groups and archaeological and historical societies.

Barn Owl


Foulness Island which is located within MOD Shoeburyness comprises extensive inter-tidal mud and sand flats, saltmarsh, beaches, shingle/shell banks, grazing marshes, rough grass and scrubland. The flats are of international importance for six bird species: Dark-bellied Brent Geese who flock to the area in their thousands every winter, Oystercatchers, Grey Plovers, Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits and Redshanks.

The area is also of national importance for wintering waterfowl including Shelduck, Dunlin and Curlew. The islands, creeks and grazing land form an integral part of the sheltered feeding and roosting sites for all of these birds and foraging sites for the wintering Hen Harrier. The complex matrix of habitats also supports a diverse range of plants and invertebrates.

The strong Conservation Group at MOD Shoeburyness has been running for over 30 years and meets regulary to discuss conservation issues on the site.

MOD Defence Estates chairs the meetings and QinetiQ provides representatives from around the site. Members are also drawn from Natural England, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Essex Wildlife Trust, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Foulness Area Bird Survey Group, Great Wakering Natural History Society and Foulness Parish Council.

Another key organisation represented is the Foulness Conservation and Archaeological Society (FCAS), which has established a Heritage Centre in the former school on Foulness Island. Routine activities of members include ringing and counting birds (providing valuable scientific data), undertaking species surveys and providing land management and natural environment advice. They also provide archaeological expertise, including advice on matters relating to recent history as well as prior to the MOD's purchase of the land.

Without the group, the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Areas (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar International designated areas would have significantly deteriorated.

Volunteers are always welcome, whether it is to help with specific projects or routine activities. Previous experience is not necessarily required but it would be useful to have some knowledge of, or a keen interest in one of the specialist areas.

The George and Dragon public house


With 15 Grade 2 listed buildings and evidence of a Romano-British settlement dating from the late first century AD to mid-late third century AD, the MOD Shoeburyness site is also important archaeologically.

In 2001 the Foulness Heritage Centre was established to hold some of the artefacts relating to rural life on Foulness through domestic life, agriculture, and local industries and all aspects relating to the flora and fauna of the island.

The Foulness Conservation and Archaeological Society (FCAS) provides archaeological expertise, including advice on matters relating to recent history as well as prior to the MOD's purchase of the land.

The George and Dragon public house is just one example of a building that helps tell the tale of Foulness Island. Built around 1650, it was originally three weather boarded cottages but has since undergone many changes. Until the 19th Century, Foulness Island, because of its remote location, was the refuge of many a criminal and wanted man. It was also the ideal spot for all kinds of illegal pursuits including dog fighting, smuggling and even deliberate shipwrecking. One of the most popular diversions in the 1800's was bare fist fighting. Fights took place outside the George & Dragon. The most famous fighter in the area was James Bennewith, whose mother was the licensee.

Unfortunately, the George & Dragon is not currently open for business (Source: