SRHQ10.1 was located in the basement of Duke’s House in Southport. The three storey office block was built in 1964 at the junction of Mornington Road and Houghton Street. The basement was purpose built as a Sub Regional HQ at this time. During its life it was always damp with leakage from the sewers of the offices above and it goes down in history as the worst constructed HQ in the UK; the drain problem was never solved in it’s lifetime.
Duke’s House was the same generation as Sovereign House, Hertford and Alencon Link, Basingstoke, one of the new purpose built SRHQ’s. It was eventually abandoned following the 1980 Home Office Defence Review. The whole SRHQ system was then disbanded and the other proposed similar sites were never built. By then it was considered unwise to build HQ’s in towns as although they might be easily accessible, they afforded little security and also made the town in which they were located a legitimate target as well.
The entrance to the basement is part way along the spine corridor running east-west in the ground floor of Duke’s House where a nondescript wooden door parked ‘Private’ opens onto a stairway down to a short east-west corridor. Turning right at the bottom of the stairs, twin doors open into a vast rectangular room approximately 100’ X 50’ with concrete support pillars at regular intervals. All partition walls forming individual rooms and corridors have been removed leaving just one square room with solid walls in the middle.
There was originally an east-west spine corridor with four large rooms on the left. The first of these was allocated to GPO, Home Office and Central Office of Information. There were six rooms on the right hand side including make and female dormitories.
Back at the short entrance corridor, there are two rooms on the south side, the boiler room and meter room. The boiler is a recent replacement and is still used to heat the rest of the building. There is an emergency escape latter to the street from this room. The meter room is also still in use containing the main electrical input feed to the building. There is a rack of control boxes on one wall which dates from the 1960’s. On the north side of the corridor the male and female toilets have been completely stripped out.
A second set of double doors to the east opens into a second large room which would have been where the various agencies required in the SRHQ would have been located. There were five rooms on the right hand side, four of which still remain. There is no evidence to say what they were used for. 4 further rooms were located along the east end of the room but the partition walls have gone. The two rooms in the north east corner must have been the BBC Office and BBC Studio as there is evidence of acoustic tiles having been ripped from the walls and ceiling.
Along the west side of this large room are the canteen and kitchen. The canteen is completely empty with a serving hatch into the kitchen next door. The kitchen still retains a cooker and a tea urn and evidence of a now removed sink. At the far end of the kitchen a door leads into a small room with ventilation trunking. From this room it’s possible to return to the short corridor through another narrow room. There is also a steel gas tight door into the small ventilation plant room. All the plant and control equipment remains intact but no longer in use. There are a number of unused filters in boxes. One of the control boxes refers to a generator although there is no evidence of where it was located.
Back in the agency room there are again concrete supporting pillars at regular intervals and a second stairway up to the ground floor above. There is a safe in the small room under the stairs.
The size of the basement is somewhat larger than the building above so it obviously extends under the car park and perhaps under the street,
The SRHQ was known to have been damp and although now dry throughout (all the radiators were on) the western room still smelt damp. According to the caretaker, removal of the toilets and showers stopped the problem.
Since closure of the SRHQ the basement has been used by the Inland Revenue but is currently empty and available for rent. An archive storage company has shown an interest in taking it over.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Keith Ward, Rod Siebert, Richard Lamont, John Fogg and Robin Ware.