Building 58, former RAF Barnham atomic bomb store


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Building 58, former RAF Barnham atomic bomb store, GORSE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE


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Statutory Address:
Building 58, former RAF Barnham atomic bomb store, GORSE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE

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

West Suffolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Maintenance Building 58 was one of two buildings on the site (the other being the much altered Building 62) used for the inspection of bombs brought from the airfields.

Reasons for Designation

Building 58, a bomb inspection building, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * RARITY: It is a rare building in a national and international context. Designed in the 1950s for storing innovative nuclear technology, RAF Barnham is the only such surviving facility in England. * HISTORIC INTEREST: A unique building surviving from the Cold War, designed to accommodate Britain's first nuclear weapon, the Blue Danube. * GROUP VALUE: Building 58 has strong group value with the other buildings at RAF Barnham, both in terms of their function and historic significance. * INTACTNESS: Building 58 is a largely intact, bespoke structure.


Although the site was used for storage of Mustard Gas and explosives during World War II, it was not until after the end of hostilities that the depot was constructed in its current form. In the early 1950s, the Air Ministry had a continuing need for high explosive bombs and storage facilities for them in anticipation of a future war in which atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons would be used by both sides. It is within this historic context that the Special Storage Unit at RAF Barnham was constructed following the issuing of Blue Danube, Britain's first nuclear bomb, to the RAF in November 1953. The bombs were held in clutches in V bomber airfields such as RAF Scampton and RAF Wittering and the purpose of the store at RAF Barnham, and the almost identical site at RAF Faldingwoth in Lincolnshire, was to provide maintenance and refurbishment to support the airfields and hold spare warheads.

The Air Ministry plan for the Store is dated May 1953, although planning for the facility almost certainly had started before this, and it was fully operational by July 1954. In the first phase of works, the fences, earthworks, fissile core storage hutches, inspection buildings and gantries were built by August 1955. The small arms and pyrotechnics store, barrack accommodation, gymnasium, telephone exchange, meat preparation store and dog compound were erected shortly after to strengthen security. By mid 1955 the double fence was in place, later augmented by the current observation towers erected in early 1959 replacing smaller structures. The Special Storage Unit remained the main holding place for the Mark 1 atomic bomb, under control of Bomber Command until November 1956 when an independent Unit (95 Commanding Maintenance Unit) was formed. During the operational life of the site, second and third generation British nuclear weapons such as Red Beard and Yellow Sun were introduced and stored there. By 1962, the site was in decline and the Maintenance Unit ceased to exist on 31 July 1963. The closure of the station is probably linked to the operational deployment of Blue Steel from late 1962.

The site was sold to the current owners in 1966 and later let out for light industrial use. Some of the buildings have been altered and significantly, one of the Non Nuclear stores burnt down in the 1980s, but there has been an on-going maintenance and repair programme agreed with English Heritage resulting in the preservation of the site.

Maintenance Building 58 was probably one of two buildings on the site (the other being the much altered Building 62) used for the inspection of the bombs brought from the airfields. Documents record some movement of bombs between the site and airfields and indeed pantechnicons designed to carry a complete weapon were known to have visited the site. It is now used for light engineering.


Building 58 is a bomb inspection building.

MATERIALS Building 58 has a reinforced concrete frame and blockwork walls, over-painted at the east end, and is shielded by freestanding blast walls.

PLAN The building has a rectangular plan, aligned approximately east-west.

EXTERIOR The building has projecting entrance bays to the east and west, which contained airlocks internally, both of which have double height steel doors through which the bombs would travel. To the north are attached single storey toilet blocks and a store room with replaced fenestration.

INTERIOR The central section of the building is largely featureless except for a runway beam which originally supported four hoists. The airlocks in the porches have been removed.


Books and journals
Cocroft, W D, Thomas, R J C, Cold War - Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989, (2003)


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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