Site Records

Site Name: Swynnerton Royal Ordnance Factory

Swynnerton Training Area
Swynnerton, Staffordshire

Sub Brit site visit 27th November 2003

[Source: Nick Catford]

After WW1 the Ordnance industry in Britain was gradually dismantled with only a handful of facilities remaining in production by the late 1930's. However with the threat of war, rapid rearmament took place from 1938 with 44 Royal Ordnance factories being built consisting of three main types:

  • Explosives: For the manufacture of all explosives
  • Engineering: For the manufacture of guns, tanks and ammunition
  • Filling factories where the ammunition manufactured in 2 was filled with the explosives from 1. The filled ammunition would then be stored and issued from magazines on the sites.
Photo:Map of ROF Swynnerton in the 1970's

ROF Swynnerton became filling factory No. 5, one of 18 similar facilities.

Construction commenced in 1939 with production starting in the summer of 1940 and by early 1941 5000 people were employed there. By the summer this had increased to 15,000 reaching a peak of 18,000 in the summer of 1942.

The prime function of the factory was the filling of shells and other armaments, the filled product being stored in nine semi-sunken earth covered magazines. Filling was undertaken in lightly constructed 'laboratories' within earth revetments. If one building was destroyed the revetments were designed to contain the blast without affecting adjacent buildings; these revetted laboratories were dispersed over several areas. A number of decontamination centres were also built around the factory for use in the event of a German gas attack.

Photo:Revetted 'laboratories'
Photo by Nick Catford

There was also a burning ground to the north of the site where life-expired or sub-standard explosives could be safely destroyed.

Some of the workforce was housed in seven hostels built in the vicinity of the factory but the numbers employed were so large that many people were recruited in the pottery towns around Stoke on Trent and brought to the factory each day by special trains.

A workers train arrives at Platform 1 at Coldmeece
Photo from RM Casserley collection
The first of these staff trains ran on 4th March 1940 to a purpose built island platform at Badnell Wharf where there was a connection into the factory from the former LNWR main line between Crewe and Stafford. As the factory continued to expand the number of passengers presented a major obstacle to the smooth running of the main line. To overcome this a new line was constructed from a junction (Swynnerton Junction) on the North Staffs Railway's Stone - Norton Bridge line running one mile to a new station at Coldmeece, a hamlet on the south east side of the factory.
Construction of the new line started in spring 1941; it was originally planned as a single track branch with one platform at Coldmeece but with the rapid increase in production at ROF Swynnerton this was quickly upgraded to a double track line running into a four platform station. Each platform was 900 feet in length and able to accommodate two trains at the same time; this quickly proved necessary. The first train into the new station ran on 5th August 1941.

Coldmeece Station on 28th February 1958
Photo from RM Casserley collection

The station was substantially built in brick and concrete with corrugated iron canopies with air raid shelters constructed on either side and a footbridge linking the platforms to the shelters.

By the time the station was complete ROF Swynnerton was working round the clock on a three shift system (07.00 - 15.00, 15.00 - 22.00 and 22.00 - 07.00) and the workers trains were timed to fit this shift pattern. The station never appeared on a public timetable and the factory is not shown on Ordnance Survey maps until 1962.

As well as the regular workforce Coldmeece also dealt with a number of special trains conveying American Airforce personnel who were temporarily accommodated in one of the factory hostels. Coldmeece only carried passenger traffic, all goods traffic still entering the site from the main line junction at Badnall Wharf.

1962 1" OS map showing the factory and the
by then disused Cold Meece Station

A construction camp on the west side of the factory built by the Ministry of Supply during the construction was commissioned as HMS Fledgling on 15.4.1943 as an independent annex of HMS Daedalus II in Newcastle under Lyme. Here WRNS's were trained as aircraft mechanics in the airframe, engines, electrical and ordnance disciplines. Initially the access was only through the Royal Ordnance Factory until a new entrance was made on the west side. HMS Fledgling was decommissioned at the end of the war on 21.1.1946 and an EVT (Evocational Training) facility, HMS Cabbala was set up training released servicemen for the return to civilian life. This was decommissioned in February 1948.

At some unspecified time a proofing range was provided alongside Coldmeece Station, no further information on this facility has been seen.


For further information and pictures about ROF Swynnerton click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

Home Page
Last updated: Tuesday, 04-Jan-2011 14:55:29 GMT
© 1998-2004 Subterranea Britannica