The Oxfordshire County Emergency Centre is a single floor bunker built in 1960 and located below the grounds of a residential school in the small village of Woodeaton five miles north east of Oxford. The structure is completely below ground and access is gained by descending a flight of steps at the side of the main building on the site, a large detached Victorian house. The stairs turn 90 degrees part way down and you are then facing the door which leads into the bunker.
Just to the right of the entrance door is another door that led into the filter room, which was kitted out but the filters were never fitted into their mounts. Entering through the outer door of the bunker you turn left and pass through a second door which leads into the main corridor. Neither of these two doors were gas or blast proof but one was made of steel and is used as a security door. Our guide told us that in the event of war the entrance way would have been sealed with rubble and earth etc to make it blast resistant. Ingress and egress would then be via the emergency exit which was blast protected.
Back to the corridor: turning left from just inside the entrance door led a short distance to a door which connected into the basement of the main building. It is in this section of the building that the generator is located. Several rooms on the ground floor had telephone points etc for the ECN system. In the event of times of tension this area could be used but was unprotected.
Going back into the bunker proper, just opposite the entrance is a door leading to the main communications room. This still housed the Faraday cage for the BT equipment and had a number of aerial points etc still in situ. It also housed the lines from the SX2000 ECN system but our guide thought that the system would soon be scrapped. There were a number of civil defence relics in this room including the remains of the paper messaging system and the hatches in the walls for passing them from room to room.
Off the communications room was a room that would have been used as a general work area. It contained 3 locked steel cabinets packed full of radiation monitoring kit still in boxes etc. A door from this room led back into the corridor. On the room were a series of local area maps but these were not cold war related. A second door led into what was the scientific advisors room. On the walls were all the fallout monitoring charts and various maps including one of the ROC post locations in Oxfordshire and the charts and tote boards for reporting fallout warnings. Every chart and map was protected by cellophane and was in perfect condition. Two bookshelves groaned under the weight of a number of books and papers including a copy of London Under Attack and War Plan UK!
A third shelf contained the County Emergency Plans which were last updated around 1994. These totalled a number of volumes in heavy duty ring binders and there was a most interesting section on the disposal of bodies following a nuclear attack.
Going back into the work room and turning immediately right through a further door took us into a second room that contained the emergency exits. This was the main control room. The original emergency exit was a small hatch in the wall which led into a vertical shaft which would have been filled with sand; it led to the surface. If it was needed the occupants would have had to dig their way out through the sand to reach the surface! A second exit, fully blast protected with double doors etc was installed in the early 80’s and this led to an almost identical set of steps to the main entrance which went up to the surface.
There is also a small store room off the control room and this contained the military aerial connection points and a number of items for those participating in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. The bunker is currently in use as a meeting and conference facility and two of the rooms were laid out for a Duke of Edinburgh award exercise for that evening.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Andrew Smith, Jonathan Maisey, Pete Turrier, Tony Page and James Allen.