The West Norfolk Sub County Control and County Standby was located in Grimston Road, South Wootton (TF647223) on the outskirts of Kings Lynn.
A single storey civil deference training centre was built in the grounds of the Woodlands Nursing Home in 1966 with a purpose built bunker beneath it housing the sub control; there is also a three bay civil defence garage alongside. In 1968 the bunker was put onto care and maintenance following the disbanding of the Civil Defence Corps. It was reactivated and refitted about 1986 when it also took on the role of County Standby remaining operational until at least 1991.
Today the basement is largely stripped and abandoned while the training centre above has been converted into the Crossroads Day centre. The main entrance is through an inconspicuous blue wooden door to the right of the main entrance into the day centre. (Intake ventilation louvres are located to the left of the day centre door) This opens onto a short flight of steps down to a steel blast door. At approximately 1cm thick this is considerably thinner than most bunkers that were modernised in the 1980’s. There is a sign on the door which reads ‘Joint Norfolk County Standby/West Norfolk District Emergency Centre’. Above the door there is an overpressure valve, added during the 1980s refit.
Once through the door the stairs turn through 180 degrees to a second blast door (forming an airlock) and behind that a wooden door into the Signals Room; there is no decontamination area. The room is irregularly shaped with access to all parts of the bunker emanating from it. There is a small alcove allocated to ‘Telephonist No. 2’, a key cabinet on the wall (still full of keys) and several BT junction boxes indicating that they were used in conjunction with a TSX50 ECN unit and a WB1400 carrier receiver. In an alcove within the signals room there are two maps a large UKWMO map of the UK showing posts, clusters, groups and sectors and a smaller map of Norfolk showing ROC posts and clusters. There are numerous notices on the wall one listing all the county emergency centres and another relating to Raynet. There is also a book listing all the Norfolk Rest Centres.
A small communications or ‘CMX’ room built within the signals room, it has acoustic tiles on the walls and two small hatches for passing messages between the adjacent rooms Having come in through the main entrance the first room on the right past the telephonists alcove is for ‘Works and Internal Transport’. The next room which also has a door into the control room is for ‘Staff Officer, Scientific Advisors and Information & Publicity’.
Moving round the signals room the next room is the Control Room and passing another alcove, double doors open into a short corridor with a small store room on the left and straight ahead ‘Dormitory 1 and Auxiliary Stores’. This room still contains two metal triple bunk beds and a map cabinet. At the back of the dormitory a door leads into the ventilation plant room. The plant room was refitted in the 1980’s with a Swiss ‘Andair’ system which includes two filer units and associated switchgear. There is a cupboard with further switchgear and fuse boxes. The ventilation plant is capable of being turned by hand in an emergency and when power was applied it was found to be still working.
At the end of the short corridor a door opens into the control room which is rectangular in shape with a support wall jutting into it. Entering the control room from this corridor the first room on the left is ‘Dormitory No. 2 and Main Stores’. The dormitory is divided into two rooms each containing two triple metal bunks. One room also houses three metal map cabinets with a number of unused filters stored in the other room. ‘Dormitory No 2’ is entered from the far corner of the control room, this still has three triple metal bunks.
At the back of the control room is the door into the largest room in the bunker which houses the kitchen, canteen and unisex toilet all in all together. The kitchen and canteen is at one end with the toilet at the other end on top of a raised platform above the sewage tank. The kitchen consists of a long preparation surface with wall mounted cupboards above it and at one end a stainless steel sink and draining board with a hand pump. Three metal office cupboards stand against the wall. On top of the platform there are six WC cubicles (one for men only) fitted with Elsan flushing chemical toilets. At the end of the cubicles behind a wall is a stainless steel urinal. There are also three waste incinerators along one wall.
There is a large sign on the wall which reads ‘use of these toilets, water supply and sink facilities and dumping of waste fluids in the sump, are strictly forbidden at any time preceding a real nuclear attack warning. Mains facilities are available on the ground floor above’. As there are no separate hand basins it appears toilet users had to share the kitchen sink!
The final room in the bunker, also entered from the control room has no name on the door but it contains the emergency exit consisting of a wooden door with an overpressure valve built in to it, behind it are steps to the surface through a second pair of thin metal blast doors. On the surface there is another wooden door on the back of the building with ventilation exhaust louvres alongside.
The bunker is generally in good condition although the kitchen is damp. There is ventilation trunking through all the rooms and the lights still work in most of the rooms. The bunker has the appearance of not being completed with most of the internal partition walls not quite reaching the ceiling. It is unclear how many people would have been in the bunker when fully manned but there are 27 bunks so assuming the ‘hot bed’ system was used it could have been double this amount or more. There is no standby generator below ground so this must have been located on the surface. The original communications aerial is still mounted on the wall above the entrance to the bunker.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford and Robin Ware.
- Keith Ward