In 1953 the British Government arranged for a 100-foot deep hole to be dug, placed a layer of shale 20 feet deep on the bottom and then built 35,000 square feet of bunker surrounded by 10 foot reinforced concrete walls, making an impervious shell designed to protect Government employees for a short time. This bunker was in use by the Government up to three years ago is now in private hands and is now on the property market and it could be yours for £1.5 million.
The building is situated under an unassuming bungalow at RAF Holmpton in Withernsea, East Yorkshire and is a prime example of a Cold War bunker that was designed as one of 120 early warning stations that were built around the British coastline; one every 35 miles. The men and women based there had the task of ensuring that if the Soviet Union launched a missile strike against Britain, they would detect it and notify their command headquarters so that a retaliation strike could be ordered.
A small group of volunteers have developed a fascinating exhibition of what life within the bunker would have been like at the time it was built. James Fox, the curator of the exhibition, “We were operating guided tours, one tour a day in the afternoon, and people absolutely loved it, but the trouble was, as we expanded the exhibition, more and more people came along and we hit the point at the end of 2014 season whereby we had sold all the tickets for the tour before we’d officially even opened the gates. Now people can come along and explore at their leisure and they can stay as long or as short as they like.”
The exhibition includes a half-megaton nuclear warhead, suitably deactivated, and a map of the British Isles showing possible target sites for a nuclear strike during the Cold War years. Mr Fox describes how the bunker would protect the inhabitants from a nuclear strike that occurred further than half a mile away. The bunker would have provided complete protection against a conventional warhead strike as well as gas, biological, chemical or other attacks. It was designed to protect people for a period of one to two weeks and not the years that science fiction writers would have you believe.
Mr Fox was at pains to point out that, “Although visitors can come face to face with a half-megaton nuclear warhead, what we are trying to empathise is it is now a thing of the past, but it was a very real threat that hung over us from 1945 until 1991. The fact is, all these bunkers have gone, we don’t use them anymore, they are a thing of the past.”
So if you have £1.5 million to spend on 35, 000 feet of usable space then this should be an attractive prospect for you. Turning it into a comfortable space would be somewhat more complicated!