Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker - History and Facts | History Hit

Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker

Brentwood, England, United Kingdom

The Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker is an enormous, three-storey, Cold War-era subterranean shelter and operations centre in Brentwood, Essex. It was constructed in 1952.

Lily Johnson

02 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker

The Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker is an enormous Cold War-era subterranean shelter and former operations centre in Brentwood, Essex.

Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker history

In 1952, the spectre of the Cold War loomed ever-more menacingly over Britain. With Europe already firmly divided into two hostile and ideologically opposed camps, and with the Korean War raging in East Asia, the nuclear arms race became increasingly frenetic. In October 1952, Britain became the third country to test successfully an independently developed nuclear bomb after strategically and ideologically aligning itself with the United States.

It was against this terrifying backdrop that construction work began on the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker. The subterranean space, just 25 miles northeast of London, was first used as an RAF ROTOR station. ROTOR, a project initiated by the British Government in the early 1950s, was a complex air defence radar system which sought to repel potential attacks from Soviet bombers. The bunker then briefly became a Regional Seat of Government (RSG), before finally being turned into Essex’s Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ).

The Kelvedon Hatch bunker was designed to house up to 600 civilian and military personnel, including the Prime Minister and other high-ranking cabinet officials. In the event of a nuclear attack, the centre’s tasks would have consisted of supplying protection to nearby Ministry of Defence workers, coordinating the survival of the local population, and continuing the operations of the government.

In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the geostrategic realignment of Europe, Kelvedon Hatch nuclear bunker was decommissioned. The local Parish family, whose land had been requisitioned by the state in the 1950s in order to construct the site, bought the fields back from the Government.

Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker today

Today the Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker has been converted into a fascinating, privately owned museum, with three-stories measuring 27,000 square feet and extending 100 metres below ground level and walls made of ten-foot-thick concrete reinforced by tungsten rods.

The structure contains roughly 80 tons of genuine Cold War-period equipment, including original plotting boards, telecommunications apparatus, and 1980s-era computer equipment. It is also replete with its own BBC studio, office space, living quarters, kitchen and medical room, as well as a canteen, where refreshments are served to modern-day visitors.

It is an ideal site for those looking to explore Britain’s fascinating Cold War history, and offers visitors a glimpse into one of the globe’s most volatile periods.

Getting to Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker

Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker is located in Brentwood, Essex and can be reached via the M11 and M25. From the M11 take the A414 to Ongar, then take the A128 to Brentwood, and from the M25 interchange with the A12, Junction 28, take the A1023 to Brentwood then take the A128 to Ongar.

The nearest train stations are Brentwood and Shenfield and the nearest Underground stations are Debden, Theydon Bois, and Epping, which are all around a 7 mile taxi journey to the site.

Featured In

English Bunker Museums

Unearth England's military history by paying a visit to these 8 fascinating underground bunker museums around the country.