Spring Quarry (Burlington)

In the late 1950’s the northern part of the vast underground BAC factory was converted to provide the Central Government War Headquarters (CGWHQ) in the event of nuclear attack often referred to nowadays by codename ‘Burlington’ To the east and west of the bunker, disused areas were used for air and water supplies while to the north lies Tunnel Quarry To the south lies RNSD Spring Quarry which acted as a kind of buffer zone adding to the security of the site.

The need for a government bunker outside of London was first considered during the second world war and became a matter of urgency when the Soviet Union detonated their first nuclear bombs. In 1954 the government bought the freehold of Spring Quarry and the land above from the Bath and Portland Stone Co. and prevented any access or development above or around the area in preparation of the future works necessary. The secrecy behind the planning and location of the bunker was crucial and it was referred to by many codenames before and during it’s operation:


An area of 2,000,000 sq. ft. or 35 acres was chosen in the northern half of Spring Quarry, large enough to house the planned 7700 personnel from Whitehall, and a gasproof concrete blast wall was built encompassing this area and separating it from the connecting RNSD Spring Quarry and Tunnel Quarry The original factory lifts and escalators in this area were re-used but the entrances were massively re-enforced with concrete and blast doors designed to withstand a nuclear explosion. The huge exhaust shaft tops were designed in such a way that they would seal themselves if subjected to a detonation nearby. These civil engineering works were completed by 1959 along with most of the heavy engineering such as the air conditioning and installation of electricity generators and self contained water supplies. The remainder of the installation was fitted out over the next two years.

In the event of an imminent attack, it was planned that the Prime Minister and the heads of the armed services would evacuate London by helicopter from Horse Guards Parade, the rest of the staff would leave London in 200 busses and planned to arrive descretely so not to cause alarm or give away the secret location to local observers. No evidence of provision being provided for the Royal Family has come to light, but it is assumed without evidence to the contrary that this would be the case. The bunker was designed to be self contained from the outside world with enough provisions to function for up to 90 days.

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the immediate government focus on the bunker was deminished and in the late 1960’s a core team of 70 PSA maintenance personnel was employed to keep it available for future emergencies but with no further major expenses for a decade.

In 1975 a section of the bunker was partitioned for the use of 600 RAF staff to monitor and publish radiation levels and fallout from any future nuclear detonations reporting the information to the necessary departments adjacent and in 1979 some modifications and upgrades were made to the power systems.

By 1992 the reporting cell was now obsolete and was abandonned, the CGWHQ was de-commissioned at the same time being retained as a decoy site under minimal care and maintenance for a further decade. It was de-classified in 2004 having been secret for 50 years. Subsequently a lot of mysteries concerning the site have been revealed and many photographs and documents have been made available in the public domain. Most of the original equipment fitted in the bunker is still there today, such as the telephone exchange, Lampson communication apparatus, bakery, laundry, kitchens, generators etc. although since 2005 the heating was switched off and the fabric rapidly deteriorated with damp and water ingress. Certain areas underground have been designated historically important by English Heritage such as the 1950’s switchboard and the abandonned quarry workings ajoining the west of the bunker. These will be preserved as best as possible but the rest of the site will most likely fall into decay unless another purpose will one day be found.

Corsham Quarries » Burlington Media
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