Site Records


Site Name: Monkton Farleigh Ammunition Depot - Farleigh Down Tunnel

Batheaston
Wiltshire
OS Grid Ref: ST799674

Sub Brit site October 1985, March 1988 & February 2005

[Source: Historical text Nick McCamley: photographs Nick Catford]

Great vigilance was required to ensure that correct spacing of the shells or boxes was maintained in order to prevent congestion at the top of the tunnel where the ammunition was transferred to the much slower belts in Main West corridor. Men were stationed at intervals along the conveyor charged with the unutterably boring task of keeping watch over the thousands of ammunition boxes as they trundled past -in the cold miserable gloom, checking that none slipped off or jammed.

Pulling an emergency stop wire attached to the side of the conveyor immediately stopped both belts simultaneously from any point in the tunnel by breaking the control circuits of the motors, which could then only be restarted from the switching station near Main West.

Spotters indicated that the belt was clear by flashing the tunnel lights, which were provided with strategically placed switches for this purpose.


The top of the tunnel in Main West
Photo by Nick McCamley

Following the installation of conveyors in Main West a signal-box was built at the junction of Main West and the tunnel to control all the main haulage conveyors and the two tunnel belts.

Conveyors still in place in the tunnel in February 2004
Photo by Nick Catford

When the tunnel was brought into use the aerial ropeway link to No.20 District was maintained intact as a standby in case of a failure of the tunnel belt. It was used for a while in January, 1944, following a breakdown of the Farleigh Down tram-creeper. Later, approaching D-day, the tunnel belt and overhead rope were used simultaneously for the enormous issues of ammunition required for the invasion of Europe.

On closure of the depot the sidings at Farleigh Down became overgrown and derelict but the site was cleared in the mid 1980's when the depot was opened up as a museum. .


Looking out from the transit shed in 1944

At this time a number of ammunition wagons were still to be found around the sidings and in the underground sorting yard The museum was short lived however and had closed by 1990. The ammunition wagons were removed and most were sold to narrow gauge preserved railways.

Once again the sidings became overgrown and eventually a travelers' camp was established on the site. During this period, the doors at the bottom of the slope shaft were forced open allowing access to the depot along the tunnel.

Much of the depot has now been sold to Wansdyke Security for secure storage and they have securely sealed the top end of the tunnel close to its junction with the Main West gallery.

Plan of the underground sorting yard
Drawn by Nick Catford

At present the northern end of the tunnel at Farleigh Down remains open and accessible but the landowner has indicated that it will be securely sealed in the near future. Some sections of the two conveyors are still in place along the mile-and-a-quarter long tunnel but the underground sorting yard and adjacent offices have been completely stripped and the walls are now covered in colorful graffiti.

Photo:Looking up the slope shaft towards the transit shed in February 2004
Photo by Nick Catford

The travelers in the sidings above have gone but they have left plenty of rubbish and old vehicles which are strewn around the site. The thousand foot long loading platform has been demolished but many of the concrete supports for the wooden platform remain on site heaped together in several piles. The slope shaft and the tram creeper-retarder and transit shed are largely intact. The mechanism can be accessed from a short vertical ladder at the remaining stub end of the loading platform.

A number of other buildings still survive within the sidings complex including three pillboxes, three static water tanks and a surface air raid shelter.

Sources:

Other web sites about Monkton Farleigh & Farleigh Down Tunnel:
Secret Underground Cities (Nick McCamley's web site)
Underground Kent

Dark Places
Nettleden.com (CD ROM of photographs available)

 

For further pictures of Farleigh Down Tunnel click here

[Source: Historical text Nick McCamley: photographs Nick Catford]

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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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