Site Records

SiteName: Paddock (Alternative Cabinet War Room)

Brook Road
Dollis Hill
London, N.W.2.
OS Grid Ref: TQ223863

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.

There is little evidence of Paddock on the surface today. The above ground surface building in the north east corner of the research station compound was demolished during the construction of new housing in the late 1990's. There are however still two entrances to the bunker one consists of a steel door in a brick wall in the front garden between two new houses. This was one of the original emergency exits and opens onto a narrow spiral staircase down to the upper basement. The main entrance is along Brook Road to the north at the end of a line of new housing and adjacent to the entrance to the remaining part of the Dollis Hill Industrial Estate where a number of the research station buildings are still in industrial use. A second emergency exit has been backfilled and leaves no trace.

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.

The main vent shaft in 1996 - Photo by Keith Ward
Once inside the door there is a small lobby area with an empty water tank to one side and a wide stone stairway down to the upper basement. At the bottom of the stairs there is an airlock consisting of two heavy wooden doors with small glass spy holes for viewing. Both doors have been removed from their frames and are leaning against the wall. Halfway down the stairs water pours through a hole in the wall during wet weather and is probably the main source of flooding during the late 1990's.

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.

The next room on the right has a wire mesh cage built within it, presumably to provide some sort of electrical screening (like a Faraday Cage). This must be part of a later use by the Post Office and has no connection with the Emergency War Headquarters.

On the right hand side near the northern end is a narrow spiral staircase down to the sub-basement with another narrower blast door frame at the top of the stairs.

One of the rooms inside the surface building in 1982

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]

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