Site Records

Site Name: Oxgate (IP) Admiralty Citadel

Oxgate Lane
London, NW 2
OS Grid Rew: TQ228870

Sub Brit site visit April 2001 & December 2003

[Source: Nick Catford]


The upper basement level has for some years been used as a carpet warehouse. It has been divided in to two unequal areas and is now occupied by two different companies. There is little evidence of the buildings former use at this level apart from ventilation trunking which still remains in situ suspended from the ceiling. There are a number of modern steel doors separating the two large rooms from the main corridor and two emergency exits. The basement was originally served by a lift from the upper floors, this is still in place although now out of use, the lift machinery can also still be seen in a room adjacent to the lift shaft.

There are four stairways down to the protected lower level or sub-basement. Two of these are wide concrete stairways which give access to either end of the main east - west spine corridor where heavy steel blast doors still remain in place. There are shelves above the two stairways, one of these is stacked with wooden crates containing unused filters; these have the makers name Sutcliffe & Speakman and are dated 1939.

Photo:The upper level of the bunker, now used as a carpet warehouse. Note the ventilation trunking still in place suspended from the ceiling.
Photo by Nick Catford

There are also two spiral staircases which acted as the emergency exits; these lead down to narrower blast doors. At the top of one of the spirals there is a further steel gas tight door and beyond that a ladder up to the surface. The second spiral opens directly into the inner courtyard above where the stair well is partly covered over with a steel sheet.

When the building was first occupied by the carpet companies the basement was partially flooded and the sub-basement was completely flooded to the roof. The bunker was pumped dry but quickly began to flood again, settling at a level one foot below ceiling level in the sub-basement. This was the state of the bunker at the time of the first Sub Brit visit in April 2001. On this occasion it was possible to descend part way down the stairways to a point where the water level could be seen a few inches from the top of the lower blast doors.

In late 2002 the water level began to rise. This wasn't noticed by the two tenants occupying the basement until it reached the top of the stairways. At this point it was necessary to take immediate action to stop the water flowing into the basement and damaging the many carpets that were stored there.

Photo:The sub-basement - this is immediately below the picture above
Photo by Nick Catford

The bunker was again pumped completely dry and drainage contractors were brought in to trace the source of the water ingress; it was traced to a broken pipe in the street which was repaired. Pumps were installed in the sub-basement which can be automatically switched on when water level in the sumps rise.

The bunker is still damp with some standing water on the floor in places and at one point close to the northern emergency exit water is still flowing down the wall.

Although it has been underwater for many years the partition walls are all still intact. The floors are strewn with rubbish and the remains of old furniture but it's impossible to tell whether this dates from the war or from the buildings later use by the Heath and Safety Executive. As much of this is Dexion style shelving it is assumed to be of a later date.

Apart from the ventilation trunking that runs along the main spine corridor and into all the rooms there is little other evidence of the bunkers WW2 use as most of the rooms have been stripped of any original fittings. The plant room however is largely intact with most of the original plant still in place although now very rusty. The standby generator has gone although a large concrete engine bed indicates its position. Everything else is still there including fans, filtration plant, compressors, pumps, switchgear and floor standing electrical cabinets. In the spine corridor there is a communal decontamination shower set into a recess between two supporting pillars. This has tiled walls and water pipes still in place and appears to have always been open to the corridor with no evidence of curtains or screens for privacy. Two rooms still have heavy duty electrical cables coming into the building with bitumen panels where they pass through the outer wall of the bunker.

Photo:Decontamination shower in an alcove in the spine corridor
Photo by Nick Catford

There are a number of small rooms on the east side of the spine corridor and at the south end of the west side. The rest of the west side consists of one large room with five concrete pillars in a line in the centre of the room for added strength. There is a partition wall linking three of the pillars. This must have been the 'operation room' with a message hatch linking with one of the adjacent rooms to the south. One of the two emergency exit blast doors can be found in the south west corner of the room where it is still possible to make out the words 'Emergency Exit' on the wall. The room has a large amount of builders rubble and rotting timber on the floor which must have been dumped there at some stage as it doesn't appear to have come from anywhere in the sub basement.

In the north east corner of the room there is what can only be described as a large concrete box, approximately 12 feet long and 8 feet wide. The east wall of the box also forms part of the west wall of the spine corridor where there is a low opening into the box. The opening never appears to have had a door and the purpose of the structure is unknown. It has suggested that it might have been added strengthening but as it stops a few inches below the ceiling this seems unlikely.

Oxgate is not yet a 'listed' or even a 'locally listed' building, probably because its notable contribution to WW2 history is almost unknown.

For further photographs of the Oxgate Citadel click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated: Tuesday, 04-Jan-2011 22:16:28 GMT
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