Site Records

Site Name: Blakelaw - 13 Group Fighter Command Filter Room and Newcastle County Borough Main Control Centre

Moulton Court
Blakelaw Estate
OS Grid Ref: NZ213668

Sub Brit site visit 1st December 2004

[Source: Nick Catford]

Following the Battle of Britain, it was recognised that the central command structure was in danger of being overloaded with information from the various radar stations and observation. To overcome this potential problem, each Group Headquarters were provided with a Filter Room. The purpose of this facility was to receive all reports of aircraft locations, to assimilate and assess this information in order to provide the most accurate possible picture to the Operations Room. The Filter Room for Kenton Bar was built on a separate site, in Blakelaw Quarry. This facility was somewhat smaller than the Group Headquarters, but built to a similar pattern.

By 1943, the air defence requirements had changed, with the increase in offensive actions against occupied Europe and the reduction of massed bombing raids on Britain. 13 Group was amalgamated with 14 Group on the 15th July 1943 and the Group Control was renamed RAF Blakelaw becoming a Sector Operations Room for Catterick and Ouston Sectors in 12 Group.

Photo:The operations room at Blakelaw Filter Room seen from the upper floor; this later became the Newcastle County Borough Main Control Centre
Photo by Nick Catford

This change in role meant that the Filter Room apparently became redundant and was taken over by the Military Police in June 1944. The exact role of the Blakelaw bunker at this time is in some doubt; there were proposals to establish a joint USAAF/RAF command centre or even to convert the site into a Maintenance Unit but neither of these appear to have come to anything. In September of that year, the Filter Room was turned over to 321 Squadron, attached to 22 Group.

Council proceedings of 1952 record the purchase and fitting out of the former RAF Filter Room at Blakelaw Quarry as the Newcastle County Borough Main Civil Defence Control Centre with a purpose built Sub Control being built at Heaton. It remained in use until the stand down of Civil Defence in 1968 after which date it was retained on care and maintenance as the County Borough War HQ

Plan of the proposed conversion of the 13 Group Filter Room to a Civil Defence Control Centre - minor alterations were made when the bunker later became TS Nelson
Drawn by Nick Catford

In the 1971 Home Defence Review it was still officially performing this role and in 1974 it was ceded to Tyne & Wear County. The newly formed Newcastle District Council officially designated it as their war HQ but nothing was done to it due to the Council's extreme left wing policy on Civil Defence.

The Blakelaw site seen from the roof of one of the high rise blocks in Moulton Court - Photo by Nick Catford

In about 1982 the Sub Control in Heaton was designated as Main War HQ. In 1986 Tyne and Wear County was abolished and the newly formed Tyne and Wear Fire and Civil Defence Authority wanted to turn Blakelaw into a modern emergency centre, a scheme that was halted by the end of the cold war in 1991.

In the mean time, around 1984, it had been rented to the local sea scouts becoming TS Nelson, a use which continued until about 2000 when it was vacated.

Once the sea scouts left the small brick blockhouse above the main entrance was demolished and the rubble dumped down the stairwell; there is no evidence of this entrance today.

The sunken emergency exit was retained but the doors were welded shut and a metal grille was welded across the entrance porch to prevent unauthorised access.

The bunker which now stands in the middle of Moulton Court on the Blakelaw Estate (sheltered housing) between two high rise blocks will not be demolished but the sunken area containing the emergency exit will be filled in bringing it up to the level of the surrounding ground which will be landscaped and turned into a public garden with seating.

The filter room at Blakelaw was visited by members of Subterranea Britannica and Tyne & Wear Museums researchers on 1st December 2004. The bunker is located within a secure compound the gates of which have been welded shut. A council maintenance team arrived on the morning of the visit to cut the welds of the gate and to cut the welds off the emergency exit door into the bunker which is located in a sunken area on the north side. Once inside the bunker there is a short flight of steps down to the upper corridor. At the top of the stairs there is a small room to the right where a small compressor has been installed by the sea cadets during their occupation of the bunker. The upper corridor runs around the north and east side of the upper floor and part way round the south side to a point where it enters the upper level of the operations room.

Reopening the Blakelaw Bunker for the Sub Brit visit
Photo by Nick Catford

For further information and pictures of the Blakelaw Filter Room click here

For 13 Group Fighter Command Group Headquarters at Kenton Bar - click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 17th September 2005

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