Missile Test Area, 1958-9.
Reasons for Designation
The 1958-9 Missile Test Area is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: believed to be unique in Europe and as an essential and integral part of a unique British Cold War rocket establishment believed to be the sole survivor of its type in the western world;
* Survival: significant earthwork, buried and standing remains are preserved at this site including two test stands, a control bunker and associated infrastructure, which illustrate one component of the rocket test facility;
* Potential: it will contribute to our detailed knowledge of the operation of this test area and through its essential contribution to the site as a whole, it will inform our understanding of this unique Cold war site in Britain, as well as serving as a tangible and evocative symbol of Britain’s aspirations to superpower status;
* Historic interest: it will enhance significantly our understanding of the development and operation of Britain’s Cold War independent nuclear deterrent, and the subsequent utility of the technology in the development of international space exploration;
* Group value: as part of a single phase, grand scheme site conceived for a single rocket programme, the relationship of each site to the others and the wider landscape adds group value and enhances the national importance of the whole;
* Period: the peril from the threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction which characterised the Cold War period is inherent in the remains of the Spadeadam rocket facility in the most tangible and evocative fashion.
In 1955, the open and largely uninhabited moorland to the north of Gilsland, Cumbria, was selected as the site of the Spadeadam Rocket Establishment. Its role was to support the development of the intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) Blue Streak; this was based on the American Atlas missile, but wholly British built. It was to be a liquid fuelled missile tipped with a nuclear warhead and a range of around 1,500 nautical miles (2,413km), sufficient to reach Moscow from the United Kingdom. It was envisaged that from the mid-1960s that it would replace manned aircraft as the United Kingdom’s main nuclear deterrent. However, the missile project was cancelled in April 1960 and after a period of uncertainty by the mid-1960s Blue Streak was adopted as the first stage of the Europa 1 rocket being developed by the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO). In December 1971, Britain withdrew from ELDO and the project was finally cancelled in April 1972. The rocket test facilities were closed and the site was dismantled.
The establishment was designed and managed for the Ministry of Aviation by the project’s principal contractors, de Havilland, who were responsible for the missile’s airframe, and Rolls-Royce, who designed the engines. The British Oxygen Corporation also operated a plant on the site to produce liquid oxygen, and liquid and gaseous nitrogen. The test facilities were initially designed to assist in the development of the missile, they would then act as a proof facility, testing each of the 60 missiles it was planned to place in silos in eastern England. In its heyday the Rocket Establishment represented a world class rocket test facility and the most advanced in Europe. It was also the model for similar facilities at Woomera, South Australia, from where a number of successful launches of the Europa I rocket were undertaken.
The establishment occupied about 3240 hectares; most of this remained open providing the necessary safety distances between facilities. Construction work began in 1957 and represented a major civil engineering undertaking. A new road was constructed to the north of Gilsland and a large temporary navvy camp, of which few traces survive, was built to the south of the main entrance. An extensive road network supported across the boggy ground on brushwood fascines and embankments connects the various test areas.
The split in responsibilities between the various contractors and their different roles in the project is reflected in the layout of the facilities at Spadeadam. They may be broken down into five self-contained areas; administration and missile assembly, British Oxygen Corporation plant, component test area, Priorlancy Rigg engine test area, and the Greymare Hill missile test area. An innovative underground launcher facility was also begun, but cancelled.
Construction work at Greymare Hill began in 1958-9. The test stands were designed to support the test firing of complete missiles, later adapted as the first stage of the ELDO Europa 1 rocket. The facilities were also crucial for developing the ground support equipment and operational procedures for the launch site at Woomera, Australia, which are closely modelled on Greymare Hill facilities. Initially, the area was known as the Missile Test Area, subsequent to the cancellation of the missile project this facility was referred to as the Rocket Test Area.
Greymare Hill was the range’s principal test area. Its location makes full use of the natural topography, to the north the ground rises towards Greymare Hill and to the south there is a shallow natural hollow that drains eastwards into a small stream, the Cheese Burn. The two concrete test stands dominate the area. These are the largest on the range and they were deliberately sited to exploit the contours of the hill, being set into a natural scarp along the contour line. The two stands, referred to as the west stand, or C2, and east stand, or C3, were designed for the full static firing of complete Blue Streak launch vehicles. All references in brackets cross refer to the English Heritage survey.
Control Centre (C4)
Missile tests were remotely controlled and visually monitored from the control centre which is about 280m from stand C2 and about 240m from stand C3. It is a single storey, Y-shaped bunker constructed from thick reinforced concrete. The control centre is protected on three sides by an earthwork mound, the south side, away from possible blasts, is a vertical concrete wall. This is pierced by two ventilation openings, and by door openings to either end, now sealed by modern breeze-block, there is also a central entrance to the plant room now also sealed. The entrances lead to passageways running down either side of the central recording room (C4.1) which retains its original layout, although its equipment has been removed. At the northern end of the control centre, in the arms of the ‘Y’, were two control rooms from which the tests were controlled and monitored. That to the west - control room No.1 (C4.2) looked toward test stand C2 whilst control room (C4.3) looked east towards test stand C3. Visual monitoring of each stand was made through observation ports in the north walls of the building through three episcopes. Alternatively firings could be watched through four submarine type periscopes in the building’s roof; although no longer in place, their positions are marked by four small protruding pipes. Command and monitoring cabling for the test stands was fed through a raised cable tunnel on the roof of the control centre. A self-contained plant room located at the southern end of the building provided air conditioning for the control centre.
Test Stand (C2)
Situated at the western side of the site, it consists of two main elements; a causeway with instrument rooms below and at the end a free-standing thrust pad on which the rocket was fired. Adjacent to the stand are a number of features that were crucial to its operation.
The causeway is formed from a massive, hollow, rectangular concrete girder. The main entrance is on the eastern side which gave access to a passageway along the rear of the stand. The western end of the rear passageway is blocked by a concrete wall, which is pierced by a wide rectangular air vent and a single door. On the northern side of the passageway are four self-contained compartments that extend northwards beneath the causeway. These are on two levels joined by stairs, but are otherwise featureless. To the south of the passageway the equipment rooms are entered via double doors. Internally there are eight bays with a central corridor leading from the rear of the stand to a steel door that gives access to the external walkway beneath the causeway. These spaces were designed to house control and monitoring equipment, and pneumatic control units to regulate the supply of pressurised gases to the rocket. The first pair of bays to the north was occupied by an air conditioning plant and sections of its galvanised metal ducting remain in place. Other bays were intended to house electronic and hydraulic equipment required for test firings. A man-hole in the floor of the south-west bay gives access to the underground cable tunnel. Most of the internal walls are pierced by rectangular openings for ventilation ducts and cabling. Some galvanised metal roof ducting survives.
Above these rooms is the concrete causeway that was designed to carry the rocket in its mobile servicing tower to the thrust pad. This was moved on rails that ran the length of the causeway. Their positions are marked by two channels and at either end are concrete buffer stops. No rails survive and it is unclear if they were never installed or subsequently removed. The edge of the causeway is protected by a partial tubular steel handrail. A concrete walkway at the stand’s intermediate level runs around three outer sides of the thrust pad and is protected by a tubular steel handrail.
At the southern end of the causeway is the Thrust Pad. This is a massive free-standing concrete structure supported by four, inclined, reinforced concrete legs which was designed to hold the launcher and vehicle. In its centre is a large square hole, over which the vehicle was suspended for firings. The launcher was set on circular steel rails that allowed the rocket to be accurately rotated in azimuth prior to firing; these rails survive set into the concrete surface of the thrust pad. To the east and west of the main aperture are two rectangular holes. The hot gases from the rocket’s engines, or efflux, were designed to be directed through the hole in the thrust pad into a steel deflector beneath. This was probably never fitted, although its three concrete sloping supports remain.
At the top of the stand, to its the east, and adjacent to the access road are the remains of the irregularly shaped gaseous nitrogen filter compound (C16.2) which retains some metal fittings, and to its south the possibly unfinished auto collimator building (C24.2). This is a small, single-storey, brick, L-shaped building, which is entered through a porch on the east side. Below this is the concrete cable tunnel that carried monitoring and control cables from the Control Centre C4 to the Equipment Rooms below the causeway. In the event of an emergency, kerosene could be discharged from the rocket to the kerosene dump tank (C15.2). This lies to the south-east of the test stand visible as a raised circular base surrounded by a concrete bund wall retaining fittings to attach lightning straps.
To the west of the stand are the pump house and LOX store tanks (C2.5), whose function was to pump liquid oxygen into the test vehicles. The Pump House is a tall single storey, brick building with a concrete floor, a flat roof supported by three concrete beams, and large openings in its east and west elevations. Internally are five plinths with mounting bolts for the pumps and associated equipment as well as conduits for cabling. Surviving fittings include the remains of cable fixtures, smashed electrical switch boxes and stainless steel liquid oxygen valves. On the southern side, set into the corners, are two pairs of ceramic pipes that probably held electrical cabling. On the north side of the Pump House are two brick supports for LOX storage tanks. These are identical and comprise an octagonal outer brick wall on top of which are the remains of sixteen plates which supported the tank superstructures. The interior comprises an octagonal concrete base. Two rectangular concrete stanchions survive between the pump house and test stand, thought to have supported stainless steel piping through which the LOX would have been transferred.
During firing the efflux bucket beneath the stand would have been continuously dowsed in water, both to cool it and to wash away unspent fuel. This would be drained westwards into the concrete lined spillway, draining southwards into the effluent lagoon (C31.2). The western end of the spillway is incomplete, its projected position defined by earthworks to the north and south. At its eastern end its base and sloping sides are lined in concrete. The effluent lagoon is a rectangular concrete tank divided into two by a central concrete wall; the lagoon and channels leading to it are unfinished and at the northern end are projecting steel rods where the sluice gates were to be placed and at its southern end is a concrete footing where the pump house would have been situated.
Test Stand (C3)
This lies at the eastern side of the site and although very similar to Test Stand C2 there are some design differences. The stand consists of two main elements; a concrete causeway with instrument rooms below and at the end a free-standing thrust pad on which the rocket was fired. Adjacent to the stand are a number of features that were crucial to its operation.
For maximum strength the causeway was constructed as a hollow rectangular concrete girder. The main entrance is from the west and a rear passage way, which is open at both ends and provides access to the equipment rooms. A central corridor runs through these rooms from the rear of the stand to the steel door which gives access to the external walkway. Inside, the space is divided into eight bays that contained equipment that needed to be close to, but also protected from, the vehicle during firings. Housed within the bays were electronic rectifiers, batteries and switchgear as well as hydraulic equipment including high and low pressure gaseous nitrogen pipe-work, compressed air and an air conditioning plant. Most of the internal walls are pierced by rectangular openings for ventilation ducts and cabling. The equipment has been removed, although some galvanised metal roof ducting survives.
Externally, there is a walkway below the causeway that continues around three sides of the thrust pad. At this level, on the west side of the equipment rooms is a small brick out-shot with a double entrance on its western elevation. Internally, some electrical fittings survive and to the rear the building covers four square openings which open into the air conditioning plant room behind. The outer eastern wall of the equipment rooms is similarly pierced by square openings and ventilation holes. Also attached to this wall face are the remains of cable ducting. On the eastern walkway are two brick out-shots protected by the overhang of the causeway. The southerly building contains the remains of cable ducts that are thought to indicate that it held instrumentation equipment. The building to its north has large ventilation holes in its eastern elevation. To the north of the rear passage providing access to the equipment rooms is a concrete retaining wall. Beyond it, to the north, are two small brick instrumentation rooms placed beneath the overhanging causeway, one of which retains some electrical fittings.
Above the equipment rooms is the concrete causeway that was designed to carry the rocket in its mobile servicing tower to the thrust pad. This was moved along a pair of rails that ran the full length of the causeway. To either end are concrete buffers. A tubular steel handrail partially protects the edge of the causeway. Remains of metal light standards and electrical junction boxes also survive on the edge of the platform. In line with the front of this building and to either side of it are steel plates, which are thought to mark where the front of the tower came to rest. At the northern end of the causeway are the remains of camera position No.1, comprising a concrete floor slab with a low concrete kerb with threaded bolts to which its walls were secured.
At the southern end of the causeway is the free standing reinforced concrete thrust pad. This is supported by four inclined legs and in the centre of the square thrust pad is a large square hole over which the rocket was suspended for firings. Four metal plates, one situated on each of the hole corners, are thought to indicate the resting position of the mobile tower. Also set into the surface of the thrust pad are the remains of a circular steel rail on which the launcher was set and on an operational stand would allow it to be accurately rotated prior to firing. To the east and west of the central hole are two rectangular holes all of which are steel lined. To the south is a circular steel plate, which marks the position of a servicing mast and a number of other metal features also remain on the pad. Below the platform is an intermediate level. A concrete walkway runs around three outer sides of the thrust pad at this level and could be accessed from the sides of the stand. A tubular steel handrail enclosed the walkway. On the surface of the walkway are a number of plinths upon which machinery and gas storage tanks were originally mounted.
During firing the hot gases from the rocket’s engines, or efflux, were directed through the hole in the thrust pad into a steel deflector beneath. This was constantly dowsed in cooling water, which also removed any unspent fuel, which was then directed eastwards along the concrete lined spillway to sluices at the west end of the effluent lagoon (C31.3). This is a rectangular concrete tank divided into two by a central concrete wall. There are eight sluice gates at its western end that would have controlled the flow of effluent into the tanks. Just beyond the eastern end is a small, single-storey, brick pump house with a flat concrete roof. Internally there are two red painted concrete plinths with three pump bases. To the north of the lagoon was the waste kerosene storage tank (C32.3); its three concrete supporting plinths are visible, which are in turn surrounded by a continuous retaining wall or bund. Access to the base of the tank is via a set of concrete steps at the south-west corner.
In the event of an emergency, kerosene could be discharged from the rocket to the kerosene dump tank (C15.3) to the south east of the stand. The raised circular base of this is visible to the north-west of the lagoon, surrounded by a square concrete wall.
Most of the stand’s supporting facilities lie to its west. At the top of the stand, and adjacent to the access road, is the gaseous nitrogen filter compound (C16.3). The surface of this irregularly shaped enclosure is above the level of the lower roadway to the rear passageway and was accessed via a set of metal stairs on the southern face. It formerly housed the filters and pressure regulators incorporated in the high pressure gaseous nitrogen, main gaseous nitrogen and emergency gaseous nitrogen line running from beneath the storage cylinders. Gaseous nitrogen was fed through a low pressure main to a series of control valves grouped together within the pneumatic control unit housed beneath the causeway. These regulated the pressures and flow rates of nitrogen and all gaseous services required by the vehicle up to the moment of launch.
From the base of the stand an underground cable channel emerges from the level below the Equipment Rooms to a square, now sealed, opening to the west. From here the instrumentation duct was carried on steel supports. Its line westwards is marked by pairs of concrete blocks. This carried the control and monitoring cables from the control centre (C4) to the Test Stand.
Further down the slope is the pump house and LOX store tanks (C3.5), whose function was to was to pump liquid oxygen into the test vehicles. The pump house is a tall single storey, brick building with a concrete floor, a flat roof supported by three concrete beams, and large openings in its east and west elevations. Internally, are nine plinths with mounting bolts for the pumps and associated equipment. Some fittings survive, including the remains of cables and an electrical switch box. On the southern side, set into the corners, are two pairs of ceramic pipes that are thought to have held electrical cabling. Adjoining the southern elevation is a small brick out-shot with a flat concrete roof. To the north side of the pump house are two brick supports for LOX storage tanks. These comprise an octagonal outer brick wall on top of which are the remains of sixteen plates, which supported the tank superstructures. The interior comprises an octagonal concrete base. A line of four rectangular concrete stanchions survive between the pump house and test stand. These probably supported stainless steel piping through which the LOX would have been transferred.
To the east of the test stand a concrete path leads down to the auto collimator building (C24.3). This is a small, single-storey, brick, L-shaped building, entered through a porch on the north side. Internally, against the north wall, are two ceramic pipes that retain some cabling.
Extent of scheduling
01 The Control Centre (C4): defined by its southern concrete wall and the base of its protective mound.
02 Test Stand (C2): defined on the north by the outer edge of the concrete causeway, then turns southwards and around the outer edge of a concrete water tank on its eastern side and along the northern edge of the concrete hardstanding. To the south of the office (C29) it then turns a right angle to the southern kerb of the access road and along to the north-east corner of the modern fenced enclosure. From here the boundary follows the fenceline for a short distance downslope before turning south-east to the north edge of the surfaced lower access track, and westwards along the north side of the track to its end. It then crosses to its south side following a line to the southern edge of the concrete hard standing and the upper edge of the concrete spillway. From its western end the boundary turns southwards along the base of the earthwork mound defining the eastern side of the works to construct the effluent lagoon (C31.2). At its southern end it follows the modern fence line and then returns northwards along the base of the earthwork mound defining the western extent of the construction works. The boundary then follows the base of the mound marking the construction works for the western spillway and then the top of the scarp that defines the intended extent of the spillway. Along its northern side the boundary is defined by the top of the sloping side of the concrete spillway until it meets the modern post and wire fence. From this point it turns northwards and following the fence it then turn eastwards to the edge of the concrete causeway and to complete the boundary running up its west side to its northern edge.
03 Test Stand (C3): the northern extent of the scheduling is defined by the outer edge floor slab of the detached Camera Position No.1. From its south-east corner the boundary is drawn to the north-east corner of stand’s concrete causeway. From here it follows the eastern edge of the causeway to the point where it meets the modern steel post and wire fence. It then follows the fence eastwards before turning southwards and down the slope to the top edge of the concrete spillway. To the east the scheduling boundary is marked by the top of the scarp, and in places its counterscarp that defines the extent of construction works around the effluent lagoon (C31.3). At its eastern end it follows the modern boundary fence returning along the top of the scarp defining the extent of construction works on the south side of the effluent lagoon. At its western end the boundary is defined by the southern side of the conduit leading into the lagoon and further to the west by the southern side of the kerb defining the spillway. This runs to the edge of concrete spillway and the lower access track. At this point the boundary turns northwards along the concrete edge to the modern steel post and wire fence. From here it follows the fence and turns with it northwards to the northern side of the access track. The scheduling boundary then follows the side of the asphalt track and along its northern edges the kerb edge to the junction of the upper access track and the edge of the stand’s concrete hardstanding. Here it turns northwards and then eastwards along the outer edge of the stand to its north-west corner where it joins back to the south-west corner of Camera Position No.1.
The modern garage (C31) is excluded from the scheduling, as are all fences, signage, lamp-posts, light fittings, and static range targets, although the ground beneath all of these features is included.