SiteName: Paddock (Alternative Cabinet War Room)
Sub Brit site visit: 19th April 2001 and various later dates
[Source: Nick Catford & Ken Valentine]
In 1981 Paddock was suggested as a replacement for the North London Group War Room at Partingdale Lane, Mill Hill at a cost of £300,000. The plan was rejected by the GLC because of water seepage. At that time there was an inch of standing water in the sub-basement. Part of the site was acquired by Network Housing Association in May 1997. Planning permission was obtained in November 1997 for 99 new homes including 37 new build houses. The main post office building which is locally listed by Brent Council was to be retained and converted into 28 luxury flats. The gates and bunker are also locally listed and as part of the sale Brent Council required Network Housing to make the bunker safe and open it on at least two days a year to the general public.
The contract was awarded to Countryside in partnership and work commenced
at site in March 1998 and the first units were handed over in August
1999. The site was completed in May 2000. In line with Brent Council's
requirements Network Housing (now Stadium
Housing) spent £15,000 on the bunker including pumping out
two feet of water that had settled in the sub-basement when the fabric
of the structure was damaged during the construction of the new houses
above. Pumps were fitted and lighting installed on both levels and in
many of the rooms. Today PADDOCK remains very damp with water ingress
on both levels but the pumps ensure that the water doesn't build up
to an unacceptable level in the sub-basement.
Photo:The main distribution frame in the upper basement
Photo by Nick Catford
The first open day was held on 17th April 2002 in a blaze of publicity with both national and local and foreign press and TV coverage and a Vera Lynn look-alike to open proceedings. PADDOCK is now open on two days a year, one weekday in May primarily for local people, schools etc. and a Saturday in September as part of London Open House weekend.
The Upper basement
Surveyed and drawn by Harry Pearman
The main entrance consists of a small brick block house apparently contemporary with the adjacent housing and resembling a small electricity sub-station. Access is down a short flight of concrete steps to a locked steel door. This is in fact a small part of the original surface building now clad in brick so that it blends in with the surrounding buildings. The original entrance was on the west side, away from Brook Road, but this has now been sealed with a new doorway cut through two feet thick reinforced concrete to give access directly onto Brook Road.
Beyond the airlock, the short entrance passage enters halfway along the main north - south spine corridor of the upper basement. There are is an intriguing sign at this junction pointing up the stairs to 'Floor 28'. The upper basement is 'Floor 27 and the sub-basement 'Floor 26'. This doesn't of course indicate that there are a further 25 floors below the sub-basement but is part of a unique numbering system used by the Post Office in the 1950's. All the floors of all the buildings within the Research Station were consecutively numbered. One three storey building might have been Floor 8 - 10 with the former PADDOCK bunker being Floor 26 - 28.
Photo:The main air conditioning plant in the upper basement comprising filters, a fan
and the control cabinet
Photo by Nick Catford
In the upper basement there are 20 rooms on either side of the spine corridor, those on the east side stretching out under the pavement of Brook Road. Some rooms were once further sub-divided but the flimsy partition walls have now collapsed. Most rooms are completely empty and stripped of any original fixtures and fittings and it is impossible to determine what their original purpose would have been.
Turning right from the entrance passage the first room on the right was the kitchen. Although meals were provided in the Research Station canteen above, snacks and light refreshments could be prepared within the bunker and the kitchen would have been further pressed into service in the event of PADDOCK having to be sealed after an air attack. Two Butler sinks remain at one end with a preparation table at the opposite end. There is a serving hatch directly into the spine corridor.
Beyond the kitchen is the main stairway down to the sub-basement. At the top of the stairs is the frame for a substantial steel blast door which has now been removed.
Beyond this, in a room to the right there are two pumps mounted on
the floor and a bricked up doorway. This was the northern emergency
exit spiral staircase which has now been removed and the stairwell backfilled.
For further information and photographs of PADDOCK click here
[Source:Nick Catford & Ken Valentine]