Site Records

Mill Hill (Partingdale Lane): Regional War Room

Partingdale Lane
Mill Hill

[Source: Nick Catford]

Photo: External - Main Entrance.
Photo by Nick Catford

This bunker was one of the four London group controls (regional war rooms). It covered the North Group (Barnet, Camden, City of London, Enfield, Haringey, Islington, Westminster).

Photo: Control Room.
Photo by Nick Catford

It became disused in 1958 and remained so. It was to be used by Barnet as their emergency control but they never used it. Only one room contained comms equipment.

For many years it remained an overgrown and derelict site and was the best remaining example of one of a single-level RWR.

Photo: Phonograph Room
Photo by Nick Catford

The building was Grade II listed on 2nd December 2002 and is described by English Heritage as a
" Reinforced concrete construction. Two storey surface structure, with a central map room surrounded by control cabins, offices and plant room. Plain elevational treatment, with projecting parapet to flat roof and steel doors to entrance. Three protruding ventilation/exhaust structures on the roof of the bunker, arranged in line along the eastern edge of the roof, above the plant rooms. These are all box-like structures, perhaps 1.5m x 1m in plan and 1.5m tall, concrete or render, with black louvres in several faces.

INTERIOR: The central planning room is surrounded by wooden framed windows connecting to the suite of surrounding rooms. These windows have fabric mesh instead of glass, and in each case one opening frame (to allow passage of documents etc). All the surrounding rooms leading off the main corridor retain their original wooden doors, painted red (like the main entrance/blast doors) with white room numbers at eye level. The two entrances each have twin doors, a wooden (metal sheet reinforced) outer door with fairly normal locks and a substantial inner blast door set along each passage, fastened from within by two locking levels.

Most of the rooms retain original light fittings (single bulb fitments, covered by inverted glass domed cylinders) attached to original metal tube conduits for the wiring, metal light switch boxes etc. Most rooms also retain features such as metal coat hooks on wooden battens, and the original box-ducting for the ventilation system.

There are two lavatory/shower rooms, one male and one female. These are complete with shower stalls, hand basins, toilet cubicles and pedestals, and hot water tanks (twin sets of emersion heated tanks - each the size of a domestic hot water tank). Fresh water tanks (each made in rivetted painted metal steel, about 1.5m square) occupy the small rooms adjacent to each shower room,and there is one further water tank room on the southern corridor.

The oil fired engine for the electrical plant is completely intact (1953 on the manufacturers plate), together with the electrical plant itself (AC transformer, junction boxes, regulators, etc) mostly in the room alongside the power plant. In the adjacent room, the fan system for the internal ventilation appears substantially intact, together baffle/filter chamber and the main duct leading into the rest of the system (with summer/winter flow controls).

HISTORY: This is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a 1950s War Room, a specialised type of building designed to protect its occupants from the effects of nuclear attack and which relates to a major defining characteristic of the Cold War period of 1945-89. During much of the 20th century the possibility of the breakdown of central government control was a constant concern, prompted first by revolutions on the continent, later by industrial strikes at home and finally the spectre of total war through air attack. To counter these threats, the country was divided from the 1920s into 12 Home Defence Regions, each to be controlled by a Regional Commissioner in case of emergency. Initially these regions were to be run from existing government offices, or improvised shelters in basements. However, in the early 1950s, each of the Regional Commissioners was provided with a War Room, in an attempt to protect them and their staff (of around 50), from an attack on the country with atomic bombs. Of the 12 bunkers built, the examples at Brislington in Bristol and Mill Hill are the best preserved, the Mill Hill example being the sole survivor of four which originally served London. The surviving components include steel exterior doors, a ventilation system complete with plant and exterior flues and baffles and generator plant.

These War Rooms - bunkers designed to counter the effects of nuclear weapons - represented a new type of architecture in Britain. Their form, with a central operations room surrounded by control cabins, supported by communications rooms, air conditioning plant and emergency generators, was designed for this one purpose. They provide a direct visual relationship to the fear of nuclear annihilation of civilian populations that characterised much of the Cold War period. They are also significant in a national context for their linkage to the built infrastructure - ranging from USAAF bases, Rotor radar bunkers and missile bases - established during the first phase of the Cold War, resulting from the detonation of the Soviet atom bomb in 1949, the Korean War and the worsening situation in eastern Europe."

Despite this Grade II listing the building was sold to a private developer for conversion into a luxury house called Seafield House, which in 2010 was put on the market for £4,500,000.

Photo: The Mill Hill regional war room in 2010 after conversion to Seafield House.

See agents web site for more pictures of the conversion. A similar conversion of the Chislehurst Regional War Room in 1998 remains unsold.

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Last updated 19th June 2010

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