Kevin Booth, English Heritage Senior Curator for the North looks at a radiation map. © Tony Bartholomew
English Heritage curators have been recalling the days of the Cold War as they prepare to open the bombproof doors of a nuclear bunker to the public on May 15 2006.
The once secretive, semi-submerged structure on the outskirts of York has been restored at a cost of £240,000 and will offer people an evocative reminder of a time when post-war tensions threatened Armageddon.
The bunker is situated on the outskirts of York. © Tony Bartholomew
Now maps and charts, some of them used to depict fall-out zones after a nuclear blast, are being conserved in situ. About 300 period fittings, many original, are also being returned, including logbooks, telephones and a half-tonne device to shield switchboards from disruptive radiation.
“The bunker was the first in the UK to be designated as a scheduled monument, so we are treating the contents with the same care we would bestow on ancient artefacts,” said Kevin Booth, English Heritage Senior Curator for the North.
Original fittings have been moved back into the bunker © Tony Bartholomew
“Using photographs taken when the bunker was stood down in 1991, we want to accurately reproduce its appearance, giving the public a real insight into the operation of a site with a rich, intriguing, and in many ways, poignant history.”
One of only 12 semi-sunken bunkers out of a total of 1,561 Cold War nuclear shelters built in the UK, the York bunker was built in 1961 at the height of the Cold War as a nerve centre for liaison with central Government and, if the worst came to the worst, to monitor the fall-out from nuclear explosions.
© Tony Bartholomew
It also acted as the reporting centre for a cluster of sub-bunkers which, in the event of war, would have gathered data on the location and yield of nuclear detonations and radio activity levels.
Operated by the Royal Observer Corps – a mainly volunteer force of civilians – the York bunker could accommodate up to 60 people for two weeks in airtight and bombproof conditions.
© Tony Bartholomew
The bunker was put on top alert in 1962 at the height of the Cuban missile crisis but was eventually de-commissioned with the signing of a non-aggression treaty between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries.
“Although it is a rather unusual place to work, it is absolutely fascinating and we are looking forward to revealing its secrets to the public in May,” added Kevin.
© Tony Batholomew
The bunker will be open to the public from Monday May 15 2006 by pre-booked tour only. People interested in visiting can book by telephone on 01904 646940, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or in person by going to Clifford’s Tower in York.