Air-Raid Precaution Railway Control Centre

Overview

Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1459132

Date first listed: 21-Nov-2018

Location Description: Between Bricket Wood Station and 1 Railway Cottages. 51°42'20.9"N 0°21'30.7"W

Statutory Address: Station Road, Bricket Wood, St Albans, AL2 3PE

Map

Ordnance survey map of Air-Raid Precaution Railway Control Centre
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Location

Statutory Address: Station Road, Bricket Wood, St Albans, AL2 3PE

Location Description: Between Bricket Wood Station and 1 Railway Cottages. 51°42'20.9"N 0°21'30.7"W

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

County: Hertfordshire

District: St. Albans (District Authority)

Parish: St. Stephen

National Grid Reference: TL1351902062

Summary

Air-raid precaution railway control centre, built in 1954, adapted for use as a commercial store in the late C20.

Reasons for Designation

The air-raid precaution railway control centre, built in 1954 at Bricket Wood, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as the only surviving example in England of an air-raid precaution railway control centre constructed during the Cold War period; * for the high degree of survival of the reinforced-concrete military structure, which has had few and minor alterations.

Historic interest: * as tangible evidence of the strategic national response to the perceived threat of hostility to British government, security, infrastructure and the civil population during Cold War tensions; * for the important contribution this building’s survival makes to our understanding of the strategy and development of military structures in the Cold War period.

History

On 1 September 1939, the government took control of the railways under the Emergency Railway Control Order, and the railway was the main mover of goods and people in Great Britain during the Second World War (1939-45). Signal boxes and control centres, built in urban locations, became vulnerable during the war, and a number of key control centres were destroyed in air raids, including those at Birmingham and Manchester in 1940. Following the Second World War, subsequent policy proposed to decentralise key operating staff, and locate air-raid precaution railway control centres at least 10 miles (16km) from likely targets so the railway network could continue to function in the event of an explosion, even of megaton size. The operation of trains could be transferred from the normal control centres so as to safeguard as far as possible, the operation of traffic, including the possible evacuation of the civil population up to the time of a possible explosion. It was intended that staff would man the shelters before the start of hostilities and would remain in them for the duration of the threat of war. The remoteness of some locations (such as Iridgehay, Derbyshire) suggests they were located to assist the movement of evacuation trains, and it is known that millions of railway warrants were held in case evacuation was necessary. Following the closure of many branch lines and stations in the early 1960s, the reach of rail transport to outlying depots and airfields was reduced, and the ability of the network to transport potential evacuees became limited.

In the mid-1950s there were thirty-five precautionary control centres, some housed in bunkers while others were probably mobile and connected to auxiliary cabling. The standard design drawing for the Type ‘L’ control building (1384/53) shows a long rectangular reinforced bunker, 94ft 6in x 35ft 6in (28.8m x 10.8m), with a staggered double entrance cell, perhaps designed to act as a decontamination area. Curiously, no provision was made for sleeping accommodation. Auxiliary telephone exchanges, mobile control centres and dimming colour light signals were also provided. Later, there was a shift from permanent locations to mobile emergency controls in specially equipped trains, some of which were stored in sheds, such as the bricked-up store at Craven Arms, Shropshire, while others sat in sidings with specially installed telephone lines (all sold in about 1980).

Five Type ‘L’ standard district control centres were constructed: at Bricket Wood (dispersed location for London Euston), Burntisland (Glasgow), Huyton Quarry (Liverpool Lime Street), Knebworth (London Kings Cross) and Milnrow (Manchester). Of these five, only the Bricket Wood and Burntisland centres survive. The control centre at Bricket Wood was constructed in 1954 adjacent to Bricket Wood Station on the Abbey Line (built 1858), part of London Northwestern Railway. The control centre was constructed at a cost of £8,500, with an annual projected cost of £150. While it is known that the Knebworth control room was furnished with eight control desks and keyboards plus four standard desks for wagon controller, passenger rolling stock, passenger trains and freight trains clerks, it is not known whether the Bricket Wood centre was ever furnished or used for its intended purpose. The Bricket Wood centre was adapted to use as a storage facility in the late C20, and large door openings were created and light fittings replaced at that time.

Details

Air-raid precaution railway control centre, built in 1954, adapted for use as a commercial store in the late C20.

MATERIALS: reinforced concrete.

PLAN: rectangular in plan, based on standard Type ‘L’ drawing (1384/53).

EXTERIOR: the former air-raid precaution railway control centre is a single-storey rectangular-plan building, constructed of reinforced concrete. The roof is flat and has a tall cylindrical metal ventilation shaft near its south corner. The building has a single door to a baffle (staggered double entrance cell) at the north end of the north-east elevation, and south end of the south-west elevation. Each entrance is protected by a standalone blast wall to the exterior; the space between the south blast wall and baffle was infilled by a toilet in the late C20. A square-headed opening was broken through the south-east elevation into the former ‘Generator & Ventilation’ room in the late C20, and a sliding metal door introduced. The building measures approximately 11m in width and 29m in length. It stands to the south-east side of the south-east platform of Bricket Wood railway station.

INTERIOR: the interior conforms to the standard Type ‘L’ plan (1384/53), with baffles (staggered double entrance cells) occupying the north and south corners; a battery room, apparatus and telephone room, and generator and ventilation room along the south-east side; and a control room, DE [District Engineer?] and ST [Signals & Telegraph Engineer?] room, assistants room, and District Operating Superintendent (DOS) and assistants room along the north-west side. The walls and ceilings are constructed of shuttered concrete, and the floors of poured concrete. The reinforced concrete walls are 2ft (0.6m) thick, with some internal partition walls being 1ft thick. Each of the two baffles retains splinter-proof steel doors, and vent flanges survive on the wall inside the south air-lock. The majority of rooms retain rectangular holes for exhaust vents, however these do not appear to have been fitted out. The internal lighting was replaced in the late C20.

Sources

Books and journals
Cocroft, W D, Thomas, R J C, Cold War - Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989, (2003), 226-7
Other
Airfield Research Group, 20th Century Air-Raid Precaution Railway Control Centres, June 2014

End of official listing