You are here: Home : Search : Search Results : Detailed Result
  |   Print  

CORSHAM TUNNEL SYSTEM

DESCRIPTION + /

Extensive underground Victorian stone quarries at Corsham, developed 1938-1943 as bomb-proof ammunition depots. By 1943 the Central Ammunition Depot, Corsham, had developed into the largest underground arsenal in the world. Costing over £4,500,000 - an immense sum in those days - it encompassed some 125 acres of subterranean chambers containing 300,000 tons of munitions and explosives. Tunnel Quarry, one of the largest sections, was served by a standard gauge railway off the Great Western Railway. This branch, complete with underground platform and refuge sidings, fed a narrow gauge railway system with diesel locomotives, turntables and workshops. The onslaught of the German air offensive in 1940 caused the various supply ministries to seek protected sites for the manufacture crucial materials such as aircraft engines and weapons. The vast Spring Quarry was requisitioned and converted by the Ministry of Air Production to become the 'largest underground factory in the world'. It was used by the British Aircraft Company to produce Centaurus engines and employed a workforce of over 10,000. In order to brighten their existence the BAC Chairman, Sir Reginald Verdon Smith, commissioned a professional artist, Olga Lehmann, to decorate some of the canteens with vivid murals. By the time the tunnels were operational in 1943 German bombing was no longer a major threat, and they closed two years later. The bill for construction had exceeded £20 million. The site had a valuable second lease of life for a variety of secret Cold War uses, including as a RAF Sector Operations Centre for Southern Sector (mid 1980s). In 1961 a Central Government War Headquarters was constructed that could accommodate the Prime Minister and a nucleus of Ministers and Senior Officials and up to 4000 members of staff. The bunker was fitted with welfare facilities as well as a BBC Studio and telephone exchange. It was equipped throughout the Cold War although never used for its ultimate purpose.

PICTURES + / -
DETAIL + / -
MORE INFORMATION & SOURCES
+ / -
RELATED MONUMENTS + / -
MONUMENT TYPES + / -
COMMENTS + / -
Please help us keep our information accurate let us know if you see any errors on this page.

Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the Historic England website.