Drakelow Tunnels

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The Drakelow Tunnels are a former underground military complex beneath the Kingsford Country Park north of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, covering 250,000 sq ft (23,000 m2), with a total length of around 3.5 miles (5.6 km). They were originally built as a Second World War factory, and were developed during the Cold War to be a fall-back government centre.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

Designed by Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners, the Drakelow Tunnel Complex (originally called "Drakelow Underground Dispersal Factory")[1] was excavated during World War II in sandstone hills near the village of Kinver and the town of Kidderminster. It was originally constructed as a shadow factory for the Rover car company who were at the time manufacturing engines for the Bristol Aeroplane Company. It was also intended to supply components to Rover's main shadow factories at Acocks Green and Solihull, to supply spare parts, and to act as a backup facility if either of the main shadow factories was damaged by enemy action.[2]

The cost of the facility was originally estimated at £285,000, and construction, which began in June 1941, was expected to take just one year. In the event, the underground factory achieved full production in May 1943 and the final cost exceeded £1,000,000.

The site consists of numerous tunnels that stretch for around 3.5 mi (5.6 km), although public access on tours is limited to less than a quarter of the site.

The tunnels contained dormitories, storage areas, workshops, electrical equipment, toilets, offices, a BBC studio, a GPO Telephones communications facility and other facilities.

Cold War[edit]

During the 1950s and the growing Cold War, the site was initially used by the Ministry of Supply for storage.

Then around 1958 part of the site was developed by the Home Office as a Regional Seat of Government (RSG9). It was publicly exposed in a demonstration held there by the West Midlands Committee of 100 in the summer of 1963. Under later Home Defence schemes the bunker was designated a Sub-Regional Control (SRC), Sub-Regional Headquarters (SRHQ) and finally Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ).

The site was greatly modernised in the early 1980s, only a small portion of the site was designated for use. New blast doors were fitted in place of the previous wooden factory doors and the interior of the site was refurbished in the areas forward of tunnel 4.

Post Cold War[edit]

In about 1990 there was a plan to move the RGHQ to a much smaller bunker, formerly used by UKWMO, at Lawford Heath near Rugby. In the end this never happened, and the Drakelow site was decommissioned and sold in around 1993.

Drakelow Preservation Trust[edit]

Following the complex's move into private hands there were plans to redevelop the Drakelow site into a residential and commercial park. This would have involved demolishing the complex completely, leaving a site of historical importance lost forever. The plans met with local opposition and a Preservation Trust was quickly established by residents and other interested parties to fight the planned redevelopment. It was successful; however, it is feared that further plans for redevelopment will be submitted in the future.

Cannabis Farm[edit]

On the morning of 27 November 2013, a warrant was executed on the premises under the Misuse of Drugs Act by West Mercia Police. Involving some 30 officers, the operation resulted in the seizure of over 400 cannabis plants, valued at around £650,000. An arrest was also made in nearby Kidderminster.[3]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Brooks, Alan; Nikolaus Pevsner (2007). Worcestershire: The Buildings of England. Yale University Press. p. 667. ISBN 0-300-11298-X. 
  2. ^ Malcolm Bobbitt. Rover P4 Series. 
  3. ^ "Underground cannabis farm found at Drakelow Tunnels". The Shuttle. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°25′32″N 2°15′53″W / 52.42567°N 2.26462°W / 52.42567; -2.26462