BLOCK D AND ITS ANCILLARY BUILDINGS
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- BLOCK D AND ITS ANCILLARY BUILDINGS
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- Statutory Address:
- BLOCK D AND ITS ANCILLARY BUILDINGS
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Milton Keynes (Unitary Authority)
- West Bletchley
- National Grid Reference:
- SP 86549 34046
721/0/10013 BLETCHLEY PARK Block D and its ancillary buildings
GV II Office block, forming part of the Government Code and Cypher School intelligence centre at Bletchley Park. Built 1942-43. Designed by the Ministry of Works and Buildings as a 'spider block', adapted from the MOWB standard design for temporary office buildings.
MATERIALS: Fletton brickwork in English bond (external walls) and stretcher bond (internal walls), mostly erected with a reinforced-concrete frame and concrete-slab roof, but with two steel-framed compartments at the southern end of Spurs H and K which had special functions (teleprinter rooms). White-painted brickwork. Metal windows, mainly of 4 x 4 rectangular panes, with red-tile sills. Slightly pitched roof of reinforced concrete slabs, now felted.
PLAN: A spider block comprising 13 office spurs, opening off a central spine corridor which runs east-west. The spurs are identified by letters: Spurs A-F run west to east along the north side, and Spurs G-L along the south side; Spur M is opposite the main entrance on the north side. The main entrance lies in the centre of the south side. The south-facing spurs originally contained larger Watch Rooms, while the northern spurs mainly contained offices. Lavatories and other services are positioned along the corridor between the north spurs, with offices between the south spurs. A wing at the east end of the spine corridor contains a boiler house.
EXTERIOR: Single-storey, on a sloping site falling away to the east, with a clear break in levels to the right of the entrance. The main central entrance has double doors set within a glass-brick surround, and is surmounted by a water tank with projecting eaves, creating the tallest and most formal part of the complex. The remainder of the building consists of repeated single-storey ranges with regular fenestration. The external entrances to the teleprinter rooms in Spurs H and K have external baffle entries of brick, in order to comply with blackout. Square brick boiler house chimney to east.
INTERIOR: the central spine corridor has several flights of concrete steps along its length to allow for the sloping site, but is relatively unaltered. In spite of subsequent alterations, much of the wartime lay-out of Block D can be appreciated through fabric and documentary analysis. Each northern spur had an off-centre corridor with offices to either side; these corridors were lit by transom lights over the office doors. Offices were austere internally, with walls of bare brick. Some hatches between offices survive in place. The southern spurs had larger Watch Rooms which have now been sub-divided or re-configured. All traces of belt conveyors and pneumatic tubes, used for swift internal communications, have gone. Spurs A, B and C retain the strongest sense of their wartime character; Spur M is of particular associational value because of the location of Welchman's office. Spurs D and G in particular have been much altered internally.
HISTORY: Block D was originally planned for about 530 persons; by the war's end, some 700 were working here. Its main function was the vitally important one of breaking, deciphering and analysing German Enigma coded traffic. This work had previously been undertaken by Huts 3,6 and 8. The building of a large bespoke block to take over these functions represented the development of the scale and effectiveness of the code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park. The details of exact usage of Block D are complex (see EH report, 412 ff.). Hut 3, tasked with reporting on Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe Enigma, moved into Block D in February 1943 and occupied Spurs A,B,C,G,H and I. The reception point and Watch Room of Hut 3, located in the spine offices between Spurs H and I, are some of the most important areas of Block D. Hut 6, responsible for deciphering this Enigma traffic for Hut 3, occupied Spurs D,E,J, K and M. Gordon Welchman, one of the key figures at Bletchley Park, had his office at the northern end of Spur M. Hut 8 prepared decrypts of naval Enigma (which was separately analysed and handled), and occupied Spurs F and L. The intelligence gained here played a key part in ensuring Allied victory in WWII.
ASSESSMENT OF IMPORTANCE: Block D was considered by GCHQ to have been "the most important block in the park" (EH report, 392). Its claim to special interest is primarily historical, and this is considerable. In its scale and planning, the block clearly demonstrates the development of Bletchley Park's intelligence operation, from the extemporizing temporary accommodation erected here at the start of the war, to a more planned and greatly enlarged approach to signals intelligence process. Decryption and signals analysis activities within this building had a direct bearing on the successful prosecution of the Allied cause. Block D also has claims to notice on visual, planning and associational grounds. The largest component block at Bletchley Park, it is probably the most historically important spider block to remain anywhere and thus represents a once-common type of wartime building. Architectural impressiveness is confined to the entrance, but the whole structure is outwardly evocative of wartime demands for rapidly built accommodation, and inwardly significant because of the activities that took place here. It also forms a significant part of the overall Bletchley Park complex, a site with very considerable historical value as the principal centre for gathering and disseminating signals intelligence during WWII.
SOURCE: Linda Monckton et al., 'Bletchley Park' (English Heritage, Architectural Investigation Reports and Papers B/010/2004, 2004), 3 vols., esp. 398-442.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
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- Legacy System:
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing