During the late 1980s, central Government made funds available to the soon-to-be privatised water boards to build protected control centres. Prior to this, water boards had operated from local authority premises as part of the wider team. Started almost at the end of the Cold War, many of these control centres remained unfinished and were never actually used either in practice or in anger, so to speak.
We were met by Jim Street who gave us free run of the bunker after checking the site over himself. Entrance was via steps from a brick-built surface building – so innocuous looking that a couple of members walked right past it, thinking it was a surface store. Three short flights of stairs led down into a substantial pair of blast doors and air lock with decontamination showers between. Side rooms held a generator with perhaps three months' supply of diesel and air-filtration equipment.
Inside the bunker proper the walls and floor were bare concrete and the layout almost identical to the contemporary bunker at Totnes visited by Sub Brit some years ago. The rooms were almost bare although fully functioning power was live to all rooms. A comprehensive set of water and reservoir plans and some microfiche equivalents took up part of a couple of the larger rooms.
The 3,000 square foot bunker would have housed seventeen people in the event of a nuclear conflict, seven in the operations room, six in the communications room and three in the control room. The rooms were numbered with recent spray paint as part of an upcoming sale of the now-redundant site.
The bunker was dry apart from minor seepage at the foot of just one wall. Closer examination yielded a couple of peculiarities. The radio/comms room lacked any incoming cables or phone equipment although a couple of blanked-off cable inlets (as built) were in place. Secondly, the toilets had a urinal but the two cubicles lacked any toilets. It was clear that these had never been fitted as there was no trace of the footprint of a toilet, nor of the pipework leading to the adjacent sewage tank. It seems that the final stage of the bunker fit-out was never carried out – although why a contract for the urinal and soil tank complete with ejector pump was implemented without conventional toilets seems bizarre.
The only door we were unable to open led to the emergency exit, although the metal plates on the surface covering its location were easily identified. All in all this was an intriguing and unusual example of a late Cold War bunker – enhanced by having as much time as we wanted from our generous host from of South West Water.
In early 2014, the bunker was sold as surplus to requirement for £140,000 and is now part of a private house and not accessible.