April 1, 2011By

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…

22 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    August 17, 2011

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    It’s a shame. Places this interesting need to be preserved.

  2. tocsin_bang
    August 18, 2011

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    At least its still there and not filled with concrete or Benefil, that’s some consolation 🙂

  3. tocsin_bang
    July 17, 2012

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    If you are one of the uneducated, inarticulate idiots from that dumb Facebook page please read ALL the text above, even if you have to get Daddy to explain some of the long words for you, you might just learn something.

    Thanks for sending lots of traffic to my blog but stop stealing my photo’s….go and take your own.

  4. Anonymous
    July 17, 2012

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    who does this building belong to now, is it the goverment??

    • tocsin_bang
      July 17, 2012

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      It belongs to Tata Steel and is on their land. They inherited it when they bought out Corus, who in turn inherited it from British Steel (Formerly Stewarts & Lloyds). Neither Tata Steel or Corus knew any of the history (this is probably still the case)

      The Government have had nothing to do with since the 1950’s when it was used for Civil Defence.

  5. Anonymous
    September 17, 2012

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    well wrote and well done to submitting this. I am from Corby and my dad worked there before he lost his job, its so interesting and maybe more Corby people should read about the past of where it all began really! I used to go play, what they called in those days by the Black Pipe!! massive thing that went across the railway from stephensons way dangerous i know but i knew nothing at that age! we use to inch along it on our butts!! and wait for trains to go under it jeez im surprised im still alive now thinking about it!! scary!! sad they have welded it all up now though, it should all be preserved!

    • tocsin_bang
      September 18, 2012

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      Thank you for your feedback, it’s nice to know people are interested in the stuff I post.

      The ‘Black Pipe’ is still there (I think), it crosses the railway and as far as I can tell was/is a sewer pipe. My brother in law (2nd Gen Corby) played the same game as you 30 odd years ago 🙂

  6. Anonymous
    September 22, 2012

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    The brick building adjacent was pulled down due to the criminal damage which made it unsafe. The ruble was used to backfill the entrance to the bunker. All due to some twat setting up a face book page ironically wanting to save it!

  7. tocsin_bang
    September 24, 2012

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    Thanks for the info, didn’t know about the building demo as I’ve not been there for a few weeks, will have to go and get some pix.

    I don’t think criminal damage was to blame for the demolition, the building was in quite a dangerous state internally but it has been boarded up for some time now.

    I saw the Facebook page, does the moron know what’s happened to this location now?

  8. Anonymous
    November 18, 2012

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    Have u found any mines

  9. oliver dickson
    November 24, 2012

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    Where is the entrance

  10. Marie
    August 31, 2015

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    Sorry I’m so many years late,m but I hope this reaches you. I was born in Corby and hadn’t heard of the tunnel. My mother told me that the Tube Works were camoflaged. She said they painted day ofter day and a plane went up to inspect it day afrter day until the works looked like fields. There was still camoflage on the mills when I went to work in the old Tube Works Office in 1954. There was a story going round after the war that the Germans didn’t bomb the works because they built it and wanted to preserve it!!!!!!!!!! I heard that story recently as well!!!!!!! Some people really believe it. Oh and the Top Secret Plant making the tubes for PLUTO was called the Detail. I used to hear my dad talking about it after the war.

    • sYnc
      September 1, 2015

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      Hi,
      Thanks for sending your comments in. Not heard the camo story personally but I’m not sure how credible it is either, I do know they burned lots of waste oil to create ‘black clouds’ above the site, there was also a Decoy Site for Corby near Geddington.

      • Marie
        November 5, 2015

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        I believe gthe oil burners were called smokey Joe’s and they were all over Corby. They also camo’d the Odeon. I remember seeing the green, brown and black paint on the roof. I can asure you that when I went to work in the tubeworks office the paint was still on the side of the ERW Mills. You could see it as you walked towards the Central Roadway.

        • sYnc
          November 6, 2015

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          Thanks for submitting more info about this site, much appreciated.

  11. History Lover
    January 29, 2016

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    Not from Corby but in fact from Essex, been given this link as I was pestering some bloke to give me tour of the site, he’s been employed to locate everything, he’s found an old mobile crane that has water damaged cab and rusted through crane, it’s on the Facebook page cars you don’t see anymore

  12. Marian
    October 15, 2016

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    Interesting story. Would be great to see it on http://www.ourcorby.org.uk too!

    • sYnc
      October 22, 2016

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      Hi Marian,
      Thanks for you comment 🙂

  13. Kit Mallin
    March 31, 2017

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    You say your father had treatment in the so called hospital, the main ambulance room and first aid room were at the main entrance, if your father had used the so called underground hospital he would have had to cross railway lines. I did a feature on this underground facility for the Evening Telegraph, where I worked for nearly fifty years. I can supply pix if required.

    • sYnc
      April 1, 2017

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      Hi Kit,
      I am sure my Father in law was mistaken as this was never a hospital, keeping an ambulance in there for some time created this rumour.

      I would be very interested in seeing any photo’s and material that you have – Please contact me via this site

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