Site Records

Site Name: Chatham - Southern Water Emergency Control Centre

Farthing Corner
Gillingham, Kent.

RSG site visit 14th November 2002

[Source: Nick Catford]

During the late 1980's Southern Water built three emergency control centres one at Brede in Sussex, one at Twyford in Hampshire (now owned by Chubb Security and used as a secure storage facility and the third near Gillingham in Kent serving the Chatham, area. The Gillingham bunker just south of the Farthing Corner services on the M2 is built within a disused covered reservoir. Although completed the bunker was never fitted out or used.

The bunker is within a large fenced compound on the south side of a minor road; it is mounded over with earth and grass with two short ventilation towers on top and a recessed entrance on the north side. There is an emergency exit shaft at the rear of the mound accessed by lifting a manhole cover.

Photo: The bunker built into an old covered reservoir
Photo by Nick Catford

The entrance to the bunker is through an ordinary wooden door opening on to a flight of steps. At the bottom of the steps to the left is a heavy steel and concrete blast door with a pressure valve to one side of it, the door opens into the decontamination room which has a shower in one corner and two further blast doors, one straight ahead into an airlock and another to the left into the standby generator room. The diesel generator is still in place and appears in good condition, there is also a large fuel tank. Behind the generator is a small low level steel gas tight door leading to one of two filter rooms. The cylindrical filters are in place at the base of the intake shaft.

Once inside the air lock there is another blast door on the left which opens into the main north - south spine corridor. Opposite the air lock door is the ventilation plant room, the first of three rooms on the left hand side of the corridor. There is a single 'Andair' filtration unit consisting of a fan and a filter drum which can be bypassed if desired. This leads into the ventilation trunking that runs throughout the bunker. The plant was tested and found to be in good working order. There is an electrical cabinet mounted on the wall for the controlling the generator. There is another low gas tight door at the back of the room to another filter room and the exhaust ventilation shaft.

Plan by Dan McKenzie

The next room on the left of the spine corridor is now used to store the metal frames for three triple bunk beds, nine mattresses and three double metal lockers. The original use for the room is unknown. The final room on the left is the dormitory. Although the room is empty the bunk positions are clearly identified by three sets of wall lights at the level of each bunk.

The first room on the right hand side of the corridor is the unisex toilet with two WC cubicles. Each has a modern Elsan chemical toilet, a small stainless stealer hand basin and a soap dispenser manufactured by Tom Butler. There are two hand pumps in one of the cubicles. There is a pressure valve in the wall between this room and the airlock. The final room on the right is the kitchen which has a small stainless steel sink and draining boards, a soap dispenser, a hand pump, a cupboard, two food preparation surfaces and two water tanks.

Photo: The Faraday Cage with the emergency exit blast door to the right
Photo by Nick Catford

At the end of the corridor is the largest room in the bunker, the 'Control Room'. The room is empty apart from a large Faraday Cage made by Belling Lee which stands in one corner. The cage consists of a large electrically earthed metal box with a hinged door to allow people to walk inside. A similar Faraday cage also exists at the Brede bunker. There is a small steel and concrete blast door on one wall opening into the square emergency exit shaft. No ladder has ever been fitted. Spare filters are stored at the bottom of the shaft.

The bunker is clean and dry apart from a little standing water at the bottom of the entrance stairs and the lights work in all but one of the rooms.

Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford and Keith Ward .

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 28th September 2003

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