Shorts Brothers Seaplane Factory & Public Shelters – Rochester

April 7, 2011 | Posted in Air Raid Shelter, Blaw Knox, Kent, Medway, Rochester, Shadow Factory, Shorts, Sunderland Flying Boat, Underground | By

Founded in 1908, Shorts was the first company in the world to make production aircraft and was a manufacturer of flying boats during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and Royal Air Force bombers throughout the Second World War.Due to the success at the time of Seaplanes Shorts Brothers required a bigger site than theirexistingShellbeach Aerodrome site on the Isle of Sheppey (opened 1909) and also one that had direct access to the sea so in 1913 they bought an 8 acre plot in Rochester.By 1915 the first factory opened on the site, No.1 Erecting Shop. Soon after No.2 and No.3 Erecting Shops were built and a concrete slipway from the factory was built from No.3 Erecting Shop onto the Medway so they could launch planes straight onto the river.During WW1 over 900 Short Admiralty Type 184 (S.184) were built and it became their most successful aircraft. Also during this time they built over 50 flying boats. Between the wars Shorts were awarded the British Government defence contract for the Sunderland Flying Boat (The Flying Porcupine) and it became one of the most effective long-range seaplanes, eventually seeing heavy use inWW2 as an anti-submarine patrol bomber.By the time the Second World War came along they had run out of space at Rochester so Shorts requested permission from the Ministry of Aircraft Production to build an underground factory to accommodate new machine tools. The request was approved and two parallel tunnels were created, linked by four 75 meter adits that ran out to the back of the existing factory. Added to this were two ventilation shafts going directly to the surface. After the factory was built Shorts Brothers then constructed a huge network of Public Air Raid Shelters which consisted of two 300 yard tunnels with 14 crosscuts, connected to the Shorts Factory by a single 400 meter tunnel. There were entrance adits at various points along the tunnel as well as three ventilation shafts which doubled as emergency exits.

Due to the success of the Sunderland Flying Boat it won them the contract for the Shorts Stirling, the RAF’s first four-engine bomber and in addition to this A high-speed, long-range, four-engined flying-boat, the Short Shetland. During WW2 the Rochester site was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe resulting in many planes such as the Stirling being destroyed.

The demand for Seaplanes waned and by 1947 all of the Shorts Brothers Seaplane factories had been closed and in 1948 the Rochester factory finally closed and Shorts moved to Belfast. In November 1947 the site was purchased and conveyed to The Ministry of Supply on 12th April 1948.

The site was then used by various companies over the following decades (the most notable being Blaw Knox) and different parts of the site were leased to numerous different engineering companies until the site began to be sold off in sections.

CAV Ltd – Juy 1954
Blaw Knox Ltd – Dec 1955
Ozonair Engineering. Ltd – Oct 1958
Wm Palfrey Ltd – Nov 1960
City of Rochester Highway – March 1961
CAV Ltd – Nov 1963
Berry Ede & White – Sep 1975
Medway Borough Council – Feb 1978

By the 1990’s the Blaw Knox buildings started to get demolished and luxury housing was built in its place with the tunnel site remaining (but with some serious structural reinforcements in places!!).

Shorts Empire Canopus
Shorts Empire Flying Boat
Shorts Mayo Composite
Shorts Mussell II Monoplane
Shorts Factory 1950
Seaplane Factory
Entrance to Public Shelters from factory
Public Shelters
Lazy Wall

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Stewarts & Lloyds ARP Control Centre – Corby

April 1, 2011 | Posted in ARP, British Steel, Bunker, Civil Defence, Cobalt 60, Corby, corus, facebook, isotope, Nuclear, PDRM82, PLUTO, radiation, secret bunker, Steelworks, stewarts lloyds, tata steel, underground hospital, WW2, x-ray | By

First of all apologies for some of the photo’s, some of these are among the worst I have ever taken. If you read the report you will see why I can’t go back and retake them, this reason also justifies their use here.
Plenty of people visit this site, write inaccurate reports and often wrongly referred to it as a ‘Secret’ Nuclear Bunker, the reality is much more boring than that and confusion also arises due to its many uses over the last 60 years.I thought I would make an attempt to set the record straight and dig up some history of this brilliant site which the local chav scum have sadly slowly trashed in recent years.
Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd moved to Corby, Northamptonshire in November 1932, enabling them to make use of the local iron ore to feed their blast furnaces and Bessemer steel converters. The new construction was carried out to a very tight timetable, from the clearing of the site in 1933 the first of the Corby blast furnaces was lit in May the following year. This was followed by coke from the new coke ovens the following month and the ore preparation and sinter plants in September. No.2 blast furnace was lit in November and the first steel came from the Bessemer converters on 27th December. The last of the originally planned blast furnaces (No.3) was lit in October 1935. Following a rebuild to increase capacity of No.2 furnace Corby works became the third cheapest pig iron producing plant in the world.
After the outbreak of World War II, much of the output was war-related. Possibly the biggest contribution of the works to the war effort was PLUTO, the Pipe Line Under The Ocean, a pipeline built, following the D-Day landings to supply fuel for the invading forces. Almost 1,000 miles of steel tubes went into the project.
Incidentally, and creeping Off Topic, they built and named a Pub in Corby called The Pluto as a tribute, it became yet another violent drinking establishment and was eventually demolished 🙂
Another large Stewarts & Lloyds contribution was the 15,000 miles of tube, used for the construction of beach defences, and which was covered with barbed wire, and other, more dangerous obstructions, known as “Wallace Swords”. A total of over 275,000 miles (about 2,5 million tons) of tube were produced for war-related work during the 1939-45 period.
During World War 2 the Corby steel works were expected to be a major target for German bombers but in reality there were only a few bombs dropped by solitary planes and there were no reported casualties. This may be because the whole area was blanketed in huge dense black, low lying clouds created artificially by the intentional burning of oil and latex to hide the glowing Bessemer converter furnaces at the steel works from German bomber crews. There are also some fairly reliable reports that a proper QF Decoy site may have existed at Geddington Chase to protect the Works.
In the early 1940’s as a result of this very real threat the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) constructed an underground Control Centre for the workforce of Stewarts & Lloyds and it was used until the end of the war as well as housing the Stewarts & Lloyds ARP ambulance. The Control Centre comprised of two entrances in case of bomb damage, a central turntable to rotate the ambulance and send it out via the opposite entrance, 4 chemical toilets, a Plotting Room and Signals Room (with interconnecting message hatches), Messengers Room, Telephone Exchange linked to Radio Room, Control Room, Generator Room and a Ventilation Plant.
It shut in 1944 but re-opened in 1951 as a Civil Defence Headquarters for Stewarts & Lloyds and also as Sub Divisional Control for Northamptonshire Civil Defence (there are still some laminated door panels for this laying around the site to this day – see pix below). Also during this time it acted as one of many First Aid Posts across the Steelworks site and still had an ambulance garaged there. My Father In Law who used to work for Stewarts & Lloyds ‘thinks’ he remembers going in there for treatment on a number of occasions and it might be stories like this that led to inaccurate rumours of it being an underground hospital propagating.
When the Civil Defence Scheme was wound down in the late 60’s the site was used for Stewarts & Lloyds Research & Development and almost everything remaining in the site today relates to this, apart from the odd piece of telecoms and switching equipment. A large amount of radiography equipment can be found and was used to X-ray iron castings and steel fabrication, the floors are still littered with tube samples and castings. In the 1958 edition of Corby Works (published by Stewarts & Lloyds) there is a chapter on The Department of Research and Technical Development where it says ‘Use is made of the most modern equipment, as this becomes available, and in particular, includes modern spectrographs, equipment for vacuum fusion analysis of gases in steel, equipment for high frequency induction melting under controlled conditions of atmosphere and pressure, apparatus for the identification of compounds, space lattice measurements, and internal stress determination by X-ray crystallography, gamma ray testing of welds using new isotopes from Harwell, and the latest designs of creep testing equipment working under temperature controlled conditions’. Add to this Jib Testing and Weld Testing for the many Ransomes & Rapier Walking Draglines that worked in the various Ironstone Quarries in Corby.
The original main entrance was destroyed in 1975 when the A43 was widened and turned into a Dual Carriageway, the entrance tunnel was backfilled and part way down a double course brick wall was built. Recent, ‘intellectually challenged’ visitors have made an attempt to breach this wall in true Darwin Award style without doing their homework, if they had they would clearly see where the sealed entrance actually comes out and also see there is about 100 tonnes of rubble between the two points, thus saving them a few quid on their cheap B&Q hammers and chisels…
The end of Stewarts & Lloyds ownership ceased in 1967 when the steel industry was nationalised for the second time and they became part of the British Steel Corporation. Due to the high cost and low quality of local iron ore coming out of the quarries and mines, steel production at Corby was set to close in November 1979. This was delayed until 21 May 1980, due to the national steel strike, when the last coil came off the strip mills. In nearly 40 years of steel production they had produced almost 2.5 million tons of steel. By the end of 1981 5000 people were unemployed almost overnight as a result of the closure and by the end of the 80’s this figure reached 11,000. Most of the original 5 square mile site was demolished during the 1980’s to make way for the Corby you see today (Phoenix Retail Park and Phoenix Park Way Industrial Estate) but thankfully due to its location this site survived.
On the 6th October 1999 the Corus Group was formed through the merger of Koninklijke Hoogovens and British Steel and the Tubeworks continued at the site. On Tuesday, 27 July 2004 in an ironic twist the BBC ran a story about new owners Corus making an appeal for information about the ‘secret World War II bunker’ as they didn’t know what the underground tunnels were for 🙂
Not long after this the original gates were replaced by a very heavy duty permanent grille, welded to the walls.
In 2007 Corus was acquired by Indian company Tata and on 27 September 2010 Corus announced it was changing its name to Tata Steel Europe and adopting the Tata corporate identity.
These days after several fires, one badly burning out what was originally the Messengers & Liason room, and local morons getting in there and smashing things up the site is in quite a sorry state. The original (sealed) main entrance tunnel is full of items dumped from various decades but if you take the time to look there’s still some interesting things scattered about.
We took a couple of Plessey PDRM82’s in there and tried really hard to get any sort of reading at all from every single room and piece of equipment but the display didn’t register anything. I know they are not the most sensitive devices for background radiation but its probably safe to ignore all the scaremongering that has been reported about this site.
Ambulance Turntable
Toilet Blocks

Original Main Entrance
1950’s Doors
Castell remote locking switch
Messenger Hatches
Phillips DXI Portable X-Ray Unit

Signals Room
Linderode Saturn Spark Erosion machine
Linderode Saturn Spark Erosion machine
Phillips DXI Portable X-Ray Unit
Phillips DXI Portable X-Ray Unit
 
 
 
Old Telephone Exchange
 
 

Isotope Storage
 

Large Carl Drenck ‘Fedrex’ X-Ray Tube

Original Control Room

 
 
Isotope Trolley (Generator Room)
 
Generator Room

Original Ventilation Plant Room
 
 
Generator Room Blast Doors
 
 
Isotopes
 
X-Ray’s
 
 
British Contamination Meter, No. 1 set
 
 
 
 
STOP PRESS:
A week before Christmas 2010 the ARP Control Centre was completely welded shut (see last two pictures below), oh and someone stole the nice 1940’s light from outside…

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