Friday, 25 October 2013

Secret Nuclear Bunker

Image courtesy of:
A friend sent me a link to this planning application which is for the Secret Nuclear Bunker in the Chalfont Drive complex off the Ring Road in Nottingham.  Most Nottingham people have driven past the turning for it a hundred times but very few will have been inside.  I certainly haven't but would love to one day!

The bunker is here;

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If you zoom in on that map you start to see the uniform shape of a planned development.  Most people who took their driving test in Nottingham until a few years ago probably started off from this location.  I say until a few years ago because the site is slow being cleared for housing and other use and the various government departments that used to be there are slowly dispersing. The varied and interesting government uses means that there are lots of interesting things to be seen in this area - all of which appeal to my inner geek.  

(One of these things, and not really the focus of this blog is the presence of an Ordnance Survey Trig Point.  The specific point now seems to have been removed but there are some old shots on that second link.)

The main exciting thing at the Chalfont Drive (which is also the home of HMS Sherwood which as the Navy acknowledges, is a bold location for a naval facility...) is the Nuclear Bunker.  The site has received a fair amount of attention over the years and is well documented here.  

Correctly a 'Regional Seat of Government' this is one of a chain of facilities that existed throughout the country up until the early 1990s to be used in event of a nuclear war.  The planning application is pretty prosaic, changing the external doors to make sure that they are still secure, but the main interesting thing is the Heritage Statement.  This is required because the building is Listed - as you can see here.  The Listing statement is excellent, some choice extracts;
In the late 1950s, with the greater threat posed by the Soviet H-bomb, the earlier system of emergency central government was restructured. In place of the smaller War Rooms, the Commissioners in each Region (London was now deleted) were supplied with a Regional Seat of Government for around 200 staff. Their larger size is significant as it was envisaged that the regions would need to remain autonomous for a longer period due to the far greater devastation posed by the H-bomb.  
The Cambridge and Nottingham RSGs comprise the only purpose-built examples and, moreover, the most impressive examples of Cold War 'architecture' (by which we mean monumental structures which have applied and conscious external treatment) in England, augmented by the example at Kirknewton in Scotland which is essentially identical to the Cambridge bunker. These features borrow from contemporary Brutalist architecture in order to clearly exhibit their grim function through their architectural treatment.
It is probable, indeed, that such buildings needed to be visually impressive and forbidding - which they undoubtedly were - as much to impress visiting government ministers or local leaders and dignitaries, as for truly functional reasons. As the Cold War was essentially an era of bluff and counter-bluff, the illusion of being well prepared for nuclear strike might have been considered as important as the actual preparations themselves. The same could be said for impressing our allies and the local population, fulfilling a need to show that there were preparations in hand should the unthinkable happen
The Heritage Statement as linked above also has some great details including the final photograph of the steel door - imagine if this was your final view before entering into the bunker for an indeterminate time as the nuclear winter raged away above you.  

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