I really don’t know much about Ludlow’s nuclear bunker. I’d like to know more.
Stone House, the former offices of South Shropshire District Council and Shropshire Council, has been sold and is to be demolished. It will be replaced, if planning permission is granted, by terraced housing in the modern Georgian style (15/05509/FUL). But what will happen to the nuclear bunker below the former offices?
We built a lot of these bunkers around the country in the 1960s and 1970s. The idea was that civic leaders would squirrel themselves into a shelter and command centre. They would then emerge after the madness of mutually assured destruction and take charge of whatever was left of our world.
I remember my parents talking about four minute warnings in the early 1960s. I have learnt since that people across the country were advised to hide under tables and put newspaper on windows if the missiles came. I am too young to remember the word tipping towards destruction in the Cuban missile crisis but I’ve explored Upper Heyford air base in Oxford. It’s a true cathedral to Cold War terror. The vast scale of that airbase is a stark testimony to how nuclear war had been built into the consciousness of our nation.
The Cold War is a big and sometimes forgotten part of our modern heritage. It is nevertheless a bit of a surprise to find a small piece of it in Ludlow.
Despite the antics of North Korea, nuclear war has faded from our daily thoughts. We are not scared in the way that my parent’s generation were in the 1960s. The council offices at Stone House were rebuilt in 1989. I can’t recall being very scared then. So why was this bunker built?
I haven’t seen the bunker. I’ve asked for a site visit early in February with Shropshire Council’s heritage team and the developers. I want to ensure that it is fully recorded before the site is developed.
But mostly I am intrigued. Why did we build this nuclear bunker in 1989?
Update 10 January 2015: Plan of bunker released
Purcell, the developer, has provided me with this plan of the basement below Stone House. The plan is annotated with structural specifications (EDB01, EDB03, EDB05). Shropshire Council says these are believed to be a Ministry of Defence standard.
This is not what I was expecting. My idea of a bunker would have some seating and bedding, even if it did not have any command and communications systems. Half of the 124 square metre Ludlow basement (49.8%) is taken up with storerooms. It has a toilet and shower, and also a plant room – presumably for a diesel or electric generator, not an aspidistra. The rest of the space is taken up with corridors and stairs. This seems to be little more than storage bunker with loo and shower attached.
So what did this bunker contain? Iodine tablets? Emergency rations? Did it store official papers to ensure that, even if nothing else survives, our bureaucracy outlives mutually assured destruction to await the archaeologists of the future?
Any memories or local knowledge will be very welcome.