Site Records

Site Name: Greenwich Borough Control 51C1

Southwood Road
New Eltham

RSG Site Visit 9th March 2003


[Source: Nick Catford]

The rectangular windowless blockhouse was built in 1954 as Woolwich Borough Control but when Woolwich merged with Greenwich in 1965 it took over the role as the Greenwich Borough Control (before the merger the Greenwich control was at Greenwich Town Hall). The control was part of the South East London Group (see features: The London Civil Defence Controls ) reporting the the Regional Group War HQ at Chislehurst and later to Pear Tree House.

Photo: The blockhouse
Photo by Nick Catford

In 1980, a GLC report said the bunker was not fit for use and a new site should be found. The basement of the borough treasurer's department was considered but it wasn't until 1991 that a new unprotected control centre was located in the basement of Peggy Middleton House. Until that date although unusable, Greenwich's control was officially at New Eltham. The last exercise held in the bunker was Floodprove 1976, at that time flooding was a real threat in the Borough prior to the opening of the Thames Barrier in 1984.

The emergency exit at the rear of the building has now been bricked up and a steel plate was bolted over the recessed entrance door. This steel plate has now become detached allowing an external inspection of the former Borough Control.

Plan of Greenwich Borough Control
Drawn by Dan McKenzie

The entrance to the blockhouse is though an air lock consisting of two steel plate blast doors opening onto a narrow spine corridor. The first room on the right is the plant room which still retains all its plant in good condition. This consists of two fans feeding into the metal trunking that runs into all the rooms in the bunker. The filters have been removed or more than likely were never installed. The ventilation plant was supplied by GN Hayden of London. A 16 hp Lister diesel generator stands on a concrete plinth at one side of the room with electrical switchgear mounted on the opposite wall.

Photo: The Plant Room
Photo by Nick Catford

The next room on the right is the 'Signals Room' This has long bench tables with acoustic booths around three walls. Three of the booths were allocated to 'Operator 2', 'Operator 3' and 'Distribution Clerk'. There is a floor standing manual switchboard and two small 10 line magneto switchboards. There is a small GPO distribution rack on the wall. There is also a Pye valve radio transceiver sitting in one of the booths. There is a message hatch between this room and the adjacent 'Operations Room'. The floor is strewn with papers and there are numerous notices pinned to the wall relating to 'Exercise Floodprove 1976'

The Operations room is the largest room in the bunker. It is now largely empty with a few tables and chairs. There is a resources board leaning against the wall and a large 1:50,000 map of South East London and North Kent on one wall. There is also an single acoustic booth in one corner, this still has a WB1401 carrier receiver with a loudspeaker unit. This installation dates from the 1980's and confirms that the bunker was, at least, available for use until the new control centre was opened in Peggy Middleton House in 1995. All other evidence confirms that the control hasn't been used since the mid 1970's.

Photo: The Signals Room
Photo by Nick Catford

The final room on the right is sub-divided into two rooms. The inner room was the 'Controllers Room' with a desk and wooden filing cabinet and two maps on the wall, one a 1:25,000 map of South East London and the other a map of Greater London showing the borough boundaries. The outer 'L' shaped room is strewn with papers, many relating to the Greenwich emergency feeding plan. There are a large number of stacked metal chairs, several desks and a large sloping map table and a single acoustic booth. There is an incident location board and more notices referring to Exercise Floodprove 1976. The emergency escape hatch was in the back wall of this room but this now has a metal plate bolted over it to prevent access. There is direct access into this room both from the operations room and the spine corridor.

At the end of the spine corridor is the 'Scientific Advisors Room'. This has a 6" map of the London Borough of Greenwich with a plastic overlay. There is also a street map of Greenwich.

Moving back down the corridor towards the entrance, the next room on the right has no specific designation. There are further desks and chairs, two metal filing cabinets, one wooden filing cabinet and a metal office cupboard. Sitting on one of the desks there is a battery switching unit with five meters.

Beyond this room is the kitchen which has a 1950's electric cooker, a Butler sink with a wooden draining board, a 1950's kitchen cupboard with a fold down food preparation table and electric kettle, a water heater and three water tanks mounted on the wall above the sink. There is also a rack of Dexion shelving along one wall.

The ladies toilet has two flushing WC cubicles and three hand basins, the gents toilet also has a urinal.

The final room, opposite the plant room, is a store room with Dexion shelving around three walls. There are numerous oil cans, cleaning materials and garden tools.

The bunker is damp with mould on many of the surfaces but although it is strewn with rubbish there is no evidence of deliberate vandalism or damage. Greenwich Council have been informed that the bunker is open and it is hoped that they will secure it before it is wrecked. It is located behind New Eltham Library adjacent to a public park.

Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford

[Source: Nick Catford]

home.gif Home Page
Last updated 20th March 2003

© 1998-2003 Subterranea Britannica