Hope Cove Radar Station


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Former RAF Hope Cove radar station, near Salcombe, Devon, SX7119737555


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

Location Description:
Former RAF Hope Cove radar station, near Salcombe, Devon, SX7119737555
South Hams (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A radar station operations block of 1952-4.

Reasons for Designation

Hope Cove Radar Station, constructed in 1952-4 and converted to a Regional Seat of Government (RSG) in the late 1950s, near Salcombe, Devon is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: a rare survival of a Rotor R6 operations block - only 5 were built to this two-storey semi-sunken design. The associated Type 80 radar building is also rare, as are intact Regional Seats of Government; * Intactness: the structure is largely intact and its alterations mainly relate to its conversion to later government uses; however, these alterations are also of significance; * Historic interest (Rotor): the ambitious scheme to modernise the United Kingdom’s radar defences, known as Rotor, is an important chapter in the story of our national defence and marked a major manufacturing effort to produce the necessary technological equipment; * Historic Interest (Cold War): it marks the strategic transition in the post-war British Government’s appreciation of the effects of nuclear warfare, through the establishment of the Regional Seat of Government plan, and later schemes by the Home Office.


RAF Bolt Head military airfield and the RAF Hope Cove Ground Control Intercept (GCI) radar station were established in different phases between 1941 and 1942. The airfield was decommissioned in 1947, though the GCI continued until 1957. GCI stations were developed from late 1940 to assist in the tracking and interception of hostile aircraft after they crossed the coast, particularly at night. The original Chain Home (CH) radar system was strung out along the coast and the tracks of enemy aircraft were lost as they headed inland. GCI stations were designed to counter this problem by tracking hostile aircraft as they passed inland and then directing local fighter squadrons to attack the intruders.

In the early 1950s the site was upgraded as part of the ambitious Rotor programme to modernise the United Kingdom's radar defences. Rotor technical sites comprised radar arrays, a small electrical substation, an operations building, and were linked by roads and tracks. Hope Cove was fitted with a Type 7 Mark 2 radar head for local search and control, three Type 14 (1x Mark 8 and 2x Mark 9) plan positioning radar heads, four Type 13 Mark 6 and two Type 13 Mark 7 height finder radar heads, and one Type 54 Mark 3 radar head for search and control with no IFF (Identification Friend or Foe). The station was equipped with a guardhouse designed to resemble a bungalow (since demolished) and a two-storey, semi-sunken R6 operations block. It was one of five stations equipped with an R6 bunker, the others being at Hack Green, Cheshire; Langtoft, Lincolnshire; Treleaver, Cornwall and one in Wales at St Twynells, Pembrokeshire.

Rotor period radar stations were of five principal types: Centrimetric Early Warning (CEW), Chain Home (CH), Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL), Ground Control Intercept (GCI) and Sector Operation Centres (SOC). These were distinguished mainly according to the type of radar used (although the SOCs did not have their own radar installations). The station at Hope Cove was GCI, and the operations blocks was an R6 bunker, which was two-storey and semi-sunken. As part of Rotor 2 the Type 80, or 'Green Garlic', radar was introduced to the Hope Cove facility between 1954 and 1956.

However, the development of more powerful radar technology quickly reduced the need for such a large system. The Rotor scheme was also reduced by evolving defence policy, which recognised the threat posed by intercontinental ballistic missiles (IBMs). In 1957 a Defence White Paper suggested that the defence of the United Kingdom would be best served by the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons, and that guided weapons would be the most appropriate form of air defence. From this period on resources for radar were reduced and instead directed at the protection of the nuclear deterrent. The Rotor programme was not only the most ambitious military engineering project of the early 1950s but also required the co-ordination of a major manufacturing effort to produce the necessary equipment.

Structures dating from the Cold War period (1946-89) are the physical manifestation of the global division between capitalism and communism that shaped the history of the second half of the C20. Radar sites exemplify many of the themes of the Cold War, including the rapid evolution of information technology and the obsolescence of sites which resulted. These sites are also a direct reflection of contemporary air defence strategy. The bunkers at Rotor sites were among the first structures in England to be designed to accommodate computers. There were 54 radar stations within the Rotor scheme in England, of which about 35 were new constructions. There are now only eight surviving examples across the United Kingdom, a small group which serves to illustrate the different aspects of technological change and development throughout the Cold War.

In the late 1950s, after a period of use by the RAF, the station at Hope Cove was taken over by the Home Office and the bunker was turned into a Regional Seat of Government (RSG), codenamed Gull Perch. It later became a Sub-Regional Control, Sub-Regional Headquarters and Regional Government Headquarters under various Home Office schemes. Surface features surviving at the site include the R6 bunker and a Type 80 radar modulator building. The GCI is recorded on air photographs taken at intervals throughout its development. The site was operational until 1992 and then sold in late 1990s. In 2015 it is in the process of being converted to other uses.


Radar Station (Rotor) of 1952-4, later converted to a Regional Seat of Government (RSG). Designed by the Ministry of Works.

MATERIALS: it is built of reinforced concrete with 900mm thick walls. The interior floors are of teak.

PLAN: the principal semi-sunken structure is an R6 type. It is rectangular on plan with stairs at each end. Rooms are arranged at either side of a central corridor to each floor. The floors are subdivided into 28 rooms on each floor. The main two-storey operations room has an inserted mezzanine floor.

EXTERIOR: as it was designed to resist the effects of a 5 kiloton nuclear explosion there are no windows and the only openings in the structure are at each end of the ground floor with blast doors and lobbies. The roof is a flat concrete slab with a concrete parapet.

INTERIOR: a utilitarian interior lacking in decorative features but retaining fittings and fixtures from the Rotor (1950s) and RSG (1960s) phases, including a kitchen with serving hatches to segregated dining areas. The teak flooring is original to the first, Rotor phase, along with the air conditioning plant and cork-lined internal partition walls. There is also some signage from the Rotor phase. The stairs have metal balustrades with timber handrails.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the square building to the south of the R6 operations block is the 1960s generator block and fuel tanks. The two generators are a 375kva Meadows unit (1950s) and 375kva Cummins (1990s). 200 metres to the north-west is the Type 80 ('Green Garlic') radar modulator building. It is single storey and comprises a square modulator room connected to a rectangular generator room via a covered corridor. An induction regular room and a store are attached to the modular room. It is constructed of concrete and is a contemporary Rotor structure, and a rare survival.

EXTENT OF DESIGNATION: special interest lies in the fabric of 1950s and 1960s date. All later fabric is not of special interest.


Books and journals
Campell, D, War Plan UK, (1982)
Cocroft, W D, Thomas, R J C, Cold War - Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989, (2003)
Subterranea Britannica - Hope Cove, accessed 20/05/2015 from http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/h/hope_cove/index2.html


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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