An underground ARP control centre for the workforce of Stewarts and Lloyds Minerals Steelworks at Corby was opened around 1940 with the main entrance on Weldon Road on the outskirts of the town.
The entrance tunnel was wide enough to accommodate the ARP ambulance which was kept in the tunnels; a turntable for it was provided in the centre of the complex.
The control centre comprised a small network of rooms including a first aid post, stand-by generator, ventilation plant, radio room and telephone exchange; no dormitory or catering facilities were provided however.
A secondary entrance in to the west would have provided a means of emergency egress if the Weldon Road entrance was destroyed in a bombing raid. The steelworks would have been a major target.
After the war the control centre closed but was reactivated in about 1951 as a civil defence headquarters for Stewarts and Lloyds who had a large civil defence team. The ambulance continued to be garaged in the tunnels.
The centre also acted as a sub-divisional control in the Northamptonshire county civil defence scheme until 1957. In 1959 it became an industrial sector post under the county scheme and remained in use until 1968 when the sector scheme was abolished and civil defence at Stewarts and Lloyds was wound up.
After 1968 the tunnels were used for many years by British Steel (Stewarts and Lloyds became part of the British Steel Corporation in July 1968) as an extension to their research and development facilities. Eventually the tunnels were abandoned and a later fire has left them in a dilapidated and derelict condition.
The main entrance on Weldon Road was demolished in about 1975 when the road was widened into a dual carriageway and a short section of the tunnel was backfilled. The secondary entrance remains accessible although kept securely locked.
The entrance is in a short overgrown cutting adjacent to the main railway line into the works. A small dilapidated brick building stands on the bank close to the entrance, this appears to have been some kind of pumphouse and probably had no connection with the control centre. There are two steel entrance gates opening on to a rectangular section concrete lined tunnel, wide enough to take the ARP ambulance. The tunnel curves round to the right giving blast protection and after fifty yards opens into a large room where the ambulance turntable is still in place. On the left hand side there are four chemical toilet cubicles and to the right four doors leading into the various rooms in the control centre. All the rooms have been stripped of all original fixtures and fittings with no evidence remaining to indicate their former use.
There are two message hatches, one between the liaison room and the signals room and the other between the signals room and the plotting room. The signals room would originally have had tables around three sides with acoustic telephone booths.
In later years the radio room has been adapted with the building of a protected enclosure on the floor for the storage of short cylinders. Its exact purpose is unknown.
Beyond the ambulance turntable the wide tunnel swings round to the right towards the main entrance but after thirty yards is blocked by a brick wall; beyond this the tunnel has been backfilled.
The tunnels are strewn with rubble and rubbish with some smoke staining to the upper walls and ceiling although the tunnels and rooms are structurally sound. Internal wooden doors have been removed but some steel doors into the telephone exchange and plant rooms remain in place.
In recent years there has been a local rumour that the tunnels were used as an underground hospital. This rumour probably came about because an ambulance was garaged there until 1968 and the control centre included a first aid post. There has never been an underground hospital here. County archives, the existing Stewarts and Lloyds plans and all the evidence on the ground indicate the tunnels were never anything more than a civil defence control centre. The rooms are far too small for a hospital and many of the doorways are too narrow to easily take a stretcher.
In October 1999, British Steel merged with the Dutch company Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus who now manufacture tube on the site.
In late 2010 the entrance was permanently welded and access is no longer possible.
- Keith Ward
- Kit Mallin