Bedminster (Bristol) Sub-Control by Nick Catford There were originally 4 civil defence sub-controls in Bristol, the only one of the four to still exist is located in a residential area of Bedminster opposite No. 10 Banwell Close. It is a single storey concrete blockhouse approximately 100 feet by 30 feet with a flat concrete roof and a door at either end. It was built in 1938 as a civil defence control centre and after the war was used by the Royal Signals then the Royal Artillery (with guns) and then nurses of the St. John Ambulance Brigade. In the early 1950’s it reverted back to Civil Defence being used as a sub-control until the mid 1960’s. Since then it has remained locked and unused although externally maintained by the local council who kept the grass and weeds cut until a few years ago. They have also painted the walls with anti-climb paint although this has now dried.
The years of disuse and saurprisingly lack of vandalism have left the whole building internally lines with cobwebs. The building consists of a main 3’ wide spine corridor with operational rooms to the right and domestic rooms to the left. There are six rooms on the left, the use of the first room is unknown although it contains a table, chairs and a board with the following headings, ‘Locations Board’ and underneath that five columns with the following headings ‘Control’, ‘ Locations’, Subordinate’, ‘Rendezvous’ and ‘Remarks’. There are a number of papers in here relating to Civil Defence and the operation of the bunker. There is also a wooden sign which once must have been fixed to the outside of the building. It said ‘City and County of Bristol Civil Defence Control Enquiries C.D.O. 30 Cotham Park, Bristol’. The next room is the male toilet which has all its fittings intact. This is followed by an ‘L’ shaped kitchen/dining room. Again this has its fittings intact with a sink, water heater, work top and cupboard containing fifties crockery and cutlery. Beyond this is the female toilet with its fittings intact and then a large empty room which would probably have been the dormitory. The final room on that side of the corridor is the plant room. Here there is a standby generator, ventilation plant and control boxes and switching equipment. Everything appears complete and undamaged and in reasonably good condition. From the rear of the control room a door leads into a short ‘L’ shaped passage leading to the rear exit (locked) and a door into a room on the right hand side of the building. Here there is a large cupboard containing more papers relating to civil defence and the running of the bunker. On the far room there is a glass window into the control room.
The control room is the biggest room in the bunker with glass windows into rooms on either side and a window into the corridor. All the glass in all the windows is intact and unbroken. There are a large number of tables and chairs arranged in a semi circle with a small lectern on one of the tables. There are a number of wall boards to which maps could have been pinned. At one end is a large board 6’ high and 7’ wide with various painted headings. The board is divided into three columns. The left hand column is headed ‘Available’ and under this are eight columns divided by twelve horizontal lines. The right hand column is titled ‘Allocated’ with seven columns and twelve lines under it. The middle colimn has a title for each of the parallel lines under ‘Reserve’ and ‘Allocated’. They are ‘Depot or rendezvous area’, ‘Rescue’, ‘Ambulance’, ‘Sitting case cars’, (Requisitioned private cars for minor injured to save using an ambulance)‘Cas. col. parties’, (Casualty collection parties)’M.F.A.U.‘, (Medical Forward Aid Unit - a kind of first aid post)‘Reconnaissance’ and ‘Field Cable Parties’ (A specialised sections of the CD Corps with cable laying trailers for laying armoured field telephone cables). The board shows what is available and where they are i.e. still at the depot or at the rendezvous point.
Beyond the control room is a communications room, again furnished with tables and chairs and 6 acoustic booths along one wall; this room has windows into the control room and into the final room on this side of the corridor which has no obvious use. There are two further boards in the comms. room; one is titled ‘Locations Board’ with the same headings as the other ‘Locations Board’. The third board is headed ‘Display board’ with ‘Date’ and ‘To be seen by’ under it. There are 5 columns. Throughout the bunker is fitted with fluorescent lights with all the tubes still intact and radiators on the walls in all the rooms. Although the building is a little damp in places it is in surprisingly good internal condition with no vandalism at all. The adjoining lock up garages have been badly vandalised (recent newspaper report) and it has been suggested that the whole area has should be cleared which would be a shame as this is a unique piece of post war civil defence history in Bristol.