The Secret Nuclear Bunker at Kelvedon Hatch, in Essex, England, is a large underground bunker used during the Cold War as a Regional Government Headquarters. Since being decommissioned in 1992, the bunker has been open to the public as a tourist attraction, with a museum focusing on its Cold War history.
Built in 1952–53 as part of ROTOR, a program to improve and harden Britain’s air defense network, the bunker was a hardened Sector Operations Center (SOC), meant to provide command and control of the London Sector of the RAF Fighter Command.
The bunker was able to hold hundreds of military and civilian personnel, and could sustain them for up to three months. In the event of a nuclear strike, the RGS / RGHQs etc would be tasked to organize the survival of the population and continue government operations. The area they chose had to be off the main road, behind fields and forests, to prevent civilians from finding it.
The bunker is built 125 feet (38 meters) underground, and the entrance is through an ordinary looking ‘bungalow’ (a standard ROTOR ‘Guard House’) set amongst trees. Once in the bungalow, a 100-yard-long tunnel leads down to the bunker’s lowest floor. Above are two more floors, the “hill” which covers it, and a radio mast.
The bunker has air conditioning and heating, its own water supply, and generators, and was equipped with many types of radio equipment, protected telecommunications, teleprinter networks, and various military systems.
The bunker was eventually decommissioned in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the nuclear threat was seen to have diminished. The bunker was turned into a museum and the land was sold back to the family that had originally owned it in the 1950s. Locals now appreciate the irony of the many brown tourist signs, clearly directing people to the “Secret Nuclear Bunker” in the area.
Know Before You Go
If you visit, you need to park up, then head into the bungalow - you pay on exiting, but if you want to take a few snaps, then you need to buy a permit before you head in. There are a LOT of signs to that effect, but it's all run on honesty. By Road Access is from the A128 Chipping Ongar to Brentwood road at Kelvedon Hatch. If you have GPS then use CM15 0LA and look out for the Brown Tourist signs. From the M11: Take the A414(Chelmsford) to Ongar then take the A128 to Brentwood. From the M25: Interchange with the A12, junction 28, take the A1023 to Brentwood then take the A128 to Ongar. Rail: There are services to Brentwood and Shenfield Mainline Train Stations, where you may either take a 7 mile taxi ride, or from Brentwood you can also catch the 501 Townlink bus. For train times ring National Rail Enquiries on: 0845 748 4950 Underground: Take the Central Line to Debden, Theydon Bois or Epping, and then a 7 mile taxi ride. There is also a bus service from Epping, which is the 501 Townlink bus.