York Cold War Bunker - History and Facts | History Hit

York Cold War Bunker

United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

27 Jan 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About York Cold War Bunker

A mile outside of the city centre, York Cold War Bunker tells the story of a country on the brink of nuclear warfare. Designed to monitor nuclear fallout in the event of an attack in Yorkshire, the semi-submerged bunker affords visitors the chance to explore some of York’s more unusual history. 

Cold War Bunker history 

Built in 1961, the bunker served as the regional headquarters for the Royal Observer Corps until 1991. During operation in the Cold War, it was home to 60 volunteer members of the ROC, including a 10-man scientific warning team. 

There they sat in wait, ready at any moment to begin collating details of nuclear fallout from bombs dropped on the area, dreading the terrible job of alerting the public to the dangers.
Thankfully that day never arrived, however the presence of a decontamination room fit with air-filters and sewage ejectors reminds us that the it was a very real possibility, particularly in 1962 as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded.

These features were intended to protect the ROC staff from the ravaged outside world.

In 1991, the bunker was was finally abandoned following the signing of START I by the USA and USSR, that limited their use of nuclear weapons.

The Bunker today

English Heritage now manages York Cold War Bunker, and it is today the only one like it preserved in its operational state. Entering through the blast-door, a guided tour runs every hour and walks guests through the building’s operations room, canteen, dormitories, decontamination room and communications centre. 

A large illuminated perspex map of Yorkshire sits in the operations room, with landline and radio communication equipment and specialist 1980s computers also on display.

A short film follows with testimonies from ROC volunteers themselves.

Getting to the Bunker

York Cold War Bunker is situated approximately 1 mile outside the city centre in the small village of Holgate. It is a 10-minute drive from the centre following the A59, however there is limited parking (3 bays). It can be reached on the 412 bus, getting off at West Bank bus stop, while York also operates various Park and Ride services into the centre. 

Once outside the Bunker, a member of staff will let you in just before the hour. Be aware that it is operated on a first-come first-served basis, with groups of 20 allowed in at a time. 

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