Clapton’s WW2 ARP Control Centre is in Rossendale Street, London, E5, set back and hidden from the road by three converted civil defence garages. It is semi sunken and forms the basement of a WW2 gas decontamination and cleansing station which now houses a company called Eco-active (Hackney Community Recycling).
It is accessed from the front of the building down a flight of five steps to a gas tight door. This forms part of an airlock with the second door also intact. The layout of the bunker is similar to nearby Hackney control centre but slightly smaller with three rooms instead of four. The second gas tight door opens into the second room; the first room (plant room) is accessed by doubling back alongside the airlock. The ventilation and filtration plant is similar to that at Hackney and is manufactured by Sutcliffe & Speakman and dated 1939. There are two ‘bicycle’ type frames mounted on a concrete plinth just inside the doorway which can be used to run the filtration system in the event of a power failure.
At the rear of the second room there is a doorway leading into the toilet area, which is located behind the plant room. All the cubicles have been removed leaving a bare rectangular room. The third and largest room is the control room which contains several items from the war including a messenger’s bicycle, a canvas stretcher, a metal mesh stretcher, a gas mask and a large electric siren. In the corner diagonally opposite the entrance doorway is a ladder fixed to the wall with an emergency escape hatch half way up the wall.
Its original door is still in place and locked. The surface hatch is visible in the yard to the rear of the decontamination centre. The bunker is without power and is damp with water on the floor in places. Apart from the original artefacts and some rubbish it is empty and unused. In 1988 there were plans to restore the bunker and there was a public open day but since then its condition has deteriorated. The bunker started life as an ARP control centre and there is a black commemorative plaque on the side of the building.
After the war the bunker was reactivated (about 1952) as a sub-control reporting to the main Borough Control. At the rear of the second room there is a doorway leading into the toilet area, which is located behind the plant room. All the cubicles have been removed leaving a bare rectangular room. The third and largest room is the control room which cotrol at Hackney Town Hall. Following the amalgamation of Hackney and Stoke Newington boroughs in 1965 Clapton became a Sector Post remaining operational until the disbanding of the Civil Defence Corps in 1968
A property developer purchased the site from the council in 2000 and although the building has local listing its future is unclear.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Keith Ward and Andy Wells.
- Keith Ward