PLUTO power station in the pavilion at Browns golf course


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Browns golf course pavilion, Yaverland Road, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 8QA


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Statutory Address:
Browns golf course pavilion, Yaverland Road, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 8QA

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SZ 60592 85013, SZ6059185013


A timber golf pavilion of 1936, extended and fitted with PLUTO related plant in 1944.

Reasons for Designation

Browns Pavilion at Sandown, a timber golf pavilion of 1936, extended and fitted with PLUTO related plant in 1944, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* For its associative role in the preparation and execution of the PLUTO (Pipeline-under-the-Ocean) operation which enabled vital fuel to be delivered to Cherbourg in France, shortly after the D-Day landings;

* As a rare survivor of an ordinary building complete with plants, which was modified for this vital operation.

Architectural interest:

* For the conversion and extension of a golf pavilion for PLUTO, the modesty of the building deliberately chosen for concealment;

* A high level of survival of PLUTO machinery, fixtures and fittings.

Group value:

* With the unlisted Browns ice cream factory and the Browns clubhouse which originally held two PLUTO pumps, and the adjacent unlisted Victorian fort which housed a further 12 pumps.


The Browns golf course pavilion was constructed in 1936 as part of an update to the golf course by Henry Cotton and his fellow golfer Joe Kirkwood. Cotton won the Open Golf Championship in 1934, 1937, and 1948, and Kirkwood also enjoyed a successful professional career. The pavilion would have been used by the green-keepers for their equipment and to provide shelter for a single engine and generator providing direct current electrical power to the clubhouse. During the Second World War, the pavilion was extended in 1944, probably to provide back-up power to the mains supply, operate a control room, or allow partial operation of the Sandown pumps for the Pipeline-under-the-Ocean project (PLUTO). The Browns complex consisted of 14 PLUTO pumps, and was located at the end of a vulnerable single overhead power line. It is probable that this vulnerability was recognised by the military and therefore alterations were made to the pavilion to decrease the risk of mains power failure. The two large Ruston engines were added to the pavilion during the Second World War, creating a generating capacity of over 300 amps or 70 kW, which appears to have exceeded the requirement of a small golf club. A large sunken fuel tank was also added to the rear of the pavilion, and water tanks installed to the west and south to reduce the visibility of exhaust gases and engine noise. The extension pushed the complete north wall back approximately 3m and extended two-thirds of the rear of the building a further 3m. The materials and construction standards used were more in keeping with the exigency of war time, and included steel I-Beams. A concrete bund was also inserted under the timber frame at the rear of the building to support the heavy plant, and elements of the pavilion were painted in a military green.

PLUTO was a Second World War operation by British engineers, oil companies and the British Armed Forces. Its aim was to design, develop and construct undersea pipelines to connect to an existing UK network of fuel lines and carry fuel under the English Channel to support Operation OVERLORD (the Allied invasion of France) on 6 June 1944. The project was carried out with the utmost secrecy; the pipeline channels across land were dug at night out of sight of enemy reconnaissance aircraft, and the pumping stations and their power supplies were disguised by camouflage or hidden in everyday buildings.

Final execution of the operation involved the laying of pipes by ship from the Isle of Wight across to Cherbourg in France, a few days after the invasion. The pipes were connected up to the network and fuel pumped across to supply the military forces. A new type of flexible pipe had to be developed, along with the technology to lay it on the sea bed. The original specification for the PLUTO system was to deliver 3,300 tons of fuel per day. In reality the system provided much less than this and for only a few weeks, because ports with the ability to handle bulk-tankers were taken more quickly than planned. However, for those few days it was vital, and had the course of the invasion been different, it may well have made the difference between success or failure.

On the Isle of Wight, bombed out or redundant buildings were used to house the pumping stations. At Browns golf course, 12 pumps were installed in an adjacent disused Victorian fort and a single pump in both the golf course clubhouse, and the Browns ice cream factory. The Sandown pumping system would have had a local control room and it is possible that this was located in the basement of the Grand Hotel, the ice cream factory, or in the clubhouse which has always been powered by the pavilion.

The site was guarded by elite British auxiliary units in 1944 (Isle of Wight County Press 2016) and Jon Moreno who was interviewed with respect of the pavilion and pumping stations by the Isle of Wight County Press recalls 'The Germans landing on the island in the form of a counter attack had to be stopped at all costs.' The British Resistance website (Combined Operations 2017) also notes from oral evidence 'Tot Barrass and Richard Needham along with the other members of Major Hall’s men guarded a power station just before the invasion and in the week following. This was the PLUTO Power station in the pavilion of Sandown’s miniature golf course.' Other oral evidence has been provided from past conversations with Major Maurice Lickens, who was in charge of the Cherbourg end of PLUTO. In these recollections Major Lickens recalls inspecting the Sandown operation and that the pavilion was directly involved in the PLUTO system. Recent research suggests that gauges on the larger engines show a run time of 20 days, which corresponds with the operation of PLUTO plus some testing time, and that they have not been run since the Second World War. There is however some contradictory information on the exact role of the pavilion in the PLUTO operation, and the detail of its precise involvement remains an enigma.

Post-war, the pavilion returned to its more prosaic role of supporting the golf course. In the C21 a group of local volunteers started to repair the pavilion and continue to amass detail on its role in PLUTO (2017).


A timber golf pavilion of 1936, extended and fitted with PLUTO related plant in around 1944.

MATERIALS: timber-framed and clad in feather-edged elm board. Felt battened roof, painted wooden windows, and power generating plant.

PLAN: a linear range of three connected plant rooms facing east with a projection to the north-west corner at the rear. To the west and south there are two sets of water tanks.

EXTERIOR: the east facing principal elevation of the timber pavilion is single-storey and has a double-gabled front with small central inset verandah, which has a single timber panelled door and eye-level leaded-light casement windows to either side. Most of the windows are timber casements, with either 12 or 15 panes. The building is faced with feather-edged boarding, and the roof is pitched over the gables, and flat over extensions to the north and west. The water drums are cylindrical and made of corrugated iron. They stand on a concrete plinth and are around 2m high and 1m in diameter. There are three to the west and two to the south. Each set is fed by an exhaust pipe which exits the building and then enters the drums.

INTERIOR: there are three rooms; a central room, an extended room containing the large engine to the north, and a room containing the smaller engine to the south. The interior is utilitarian but has some plastered walls. The southern room has terracotta floor tiles, which are partially covered by the later concrete engine base. The timber roof structure is exposed and shows evidence of extension and re-enforcement. The plant consists of two large Ruston engines, the largest of which has an approximately 12.5in diameter bore, producing around 90 horsepower (hp). This engine drove two adjacent Metropolitan Vickers DC generators of 16-25kW. The smaller Ruston engine has an 8in bore, producing around 40hp, and drove a single 25kW generator. In the central room there is also a fourth generator rated at 5.7 kW, a water pump, and a twin-cylinder Lister engine. The plant has an associated grey-metal power-board with control switches and dials, which is adjacent to two freestanding regulators for controlling the electrical power supplied from the pavilion.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 17/01/2019


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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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

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