The East Cambridgeshire District Council Emergency Centre which is located in the basement of the council offices at The Grange in Nutholt Lane, Ely. The Grange is a former Maternity Hospital that was refurbished as the new council offices after closure. The council’s emergency centre was located in the basemen, probably opening in 1982. The emergency centre was enlarged when a new extension to the Grange was built in the 1980’s with a new protected control room being incorporated into the basement of the new extension.
Entrance into the bunker is down a flight of stone stairs from the old hospital building where a single gas tight door opens into a small lobby. All the rooms to the left of the lobby have now been put to other uses while those to the right have been retained as the current Emergency Centre. Straight ahead from the entrance door is a large store room and to the left is the kitchen/canteen. There is no door into this room but there’s a black curtain hanging in the doorway, in recent years this room has been used as a photographic darkroom. The kitchen still retains its wooden cupboards and food preparation table and two sinks. Two rooms were accessed from the kitchen, one was the unisex toilet and the other a dormitory; both have been stripped of any original fittings and are now used for storage.
Back in the entrance lobby to the right there is a second gas tight door into room that has been partitioned into a small rectangular room and an ‘L’ shaped room around it. The ‘ L’ shaped room contains a small BBC studio. It is very unusual to find a radio studio in local authority emergency centre but according to the log, the studio was first used in 1982 so was obviously an original installation; it is still used today for local radio interviews. All the original equipment remains in place including a Glensound GSL 4 mixer, STC headphone, a Bayer M201 microphone and a small rack incorporating a CDQ1000 Musicam ISDN unit and a radio transmitter. There are three large acoustic tiles on the wall. This equipment is completely different to the studio equipment found in most RGHQ’s which is of a standard design and owned by the BBC. It seems likely that at this site the council bought their own apparatus. It is necessary to walk through the studio to enter all the other rooms in the bunker but when the studio was installed the extension didn’t exist. The smaller rectangular room was the ‘Controllers Office’. In one wall there is a small gas tight door in the wall; this was the original emergency exit.
On the far side of the BBC studio there is a steel and concrete blast door leading into the 1980’s extension. The first room entered is described as a ‘Water Storage and Sanitation Room’ with a single Elsan chemical toilet, small hand basin with a hand pump and a large water tank. There is also some electrical switchgear and the main fuse box for the bunker on the wall. At the far side of this room is a second blast door into an airlock with another blast door to the left, a fourth straight ahead and a wooden door to the right. Immediately behind the wooden door is another blast door and behind it steps up to the car park. This is a second entrance into the bunker, allowing the extension to be used as a self contained unit.
Back in the air lock, straight ahead is the generator room with a Lister generator, fuel tank and filters. There is a pressure valve between this room and the air lock. The final blast door in the air lock leads into the ‘Control Room’ the largest room in the bunker. There is a large table in the centre of the room with local maps fixed under a Perspex top and chairs arranged around the table. Other maps around the walls include two maps of the UK, as map of England and two large scale ordnance survey maps of the East Cambridgeshire District. There is also an incidents board on one wall and below it a long table with chairs along the length of the wall and a map cabinet in one corner of the room. In an alcove at the back of the room is the SX50 ECN unit with it’s associated control boxes mounted on the wall.
Alongside the ECN a door leads into the ‘C.M.X. Room’ There is a second map cabinet in this room along with the Luwa Ventilation plant supplied by Tom Butler in Northampton, this pumps filtered air through trunking around the bunker. There is a small blast door on one wall but no ladder or step irons behind it making emergency escape very difficult, especially as the locked grille above is very small. Large people would have great difficulty getting out here.
The final room in the bunker is accessed from the CMX room, this is the ‘Radio Room’ which has a Bosch intercom and radio transceiver. There is also a message window between this room and the control room. The Emergency Centre still retains a number of PDRM82 radiation meters and a PDRM82F with an external probe as found in ROC posts.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Keith Ward and Robin Cherry.