Burlington Bunker, under RAF Corsham, Wiltshire

The mystery of what exists behind "The Red Door" has now been solved
The mystery of what exists behind “The Red Door” has now been solved

Under the Corsham Cotswalds approximately eighty feet below ground beneath RAF Corsham, lies the UK’s largest underground bunker and for sixty years one of the best kept secrets in modern MOD history. Burlington bunker. Assembled as an emergency relocation site for the British government if the threat of nuclear war ever became reality. The bunker boasts some impressive ‘sections’ from a BBC broadcasting suite to a Hospital all accessible via 10 miles of ‘road’.

Adjacent to Burlington is over 30km of tunnels and passageways belonging to Box Freestone Quarry, part of which taken over by the MOD and turned in to an air inlet. For years, explorers like myself would marvel at the MOD area of Box Mine and the mysterious ‘red door’ that sits at the end of the passage.

 

Entrance Slope from Box into Burlington bunker
Entrance Slope from Box into Burlington bunker

Exploring Burlington Bunker

Roll forward to 2010, and a set of certain circumstances which saw an opportunity to go beyond the red door and venture inside…

As we walked closer to the Burlington complex the rough rock edging became smoother as tunnels and passages turned in to roads complete with signs and road markings. Immediately we heard voices and machinery. At the end of a long roadway we could see several workmen upon motorised electrical carts. We waited for them to move on and walked around the corner, in to Burlington.

We didn’t have long to explore the site and without a decent map we had to guess where the best bits would be. After poking around in a few interesting store rooms we happened across one of the main features of the Burlington bunker; The canteen.

The canteen in Burlington bunker
The canteen in Burlington bunker

Plates & cutlery all laid out make this area look like it’s ready to be used at the drop of a hat, or as if previous inhabitants just upped and left.

The truth is, the bunker was never used. This mock setup was more than likely arranged for the hand-full of public and press tours held at the bunker shortly after it was decommissioned in 2004.

As we walked through the canteen and took in the incredible, brand-new coffee makers we made our way into the Kitchens where thousands of pounds worth of utensils, cookers & mixers sit having never warmed up so much as a tin of beans.

Telephone Exchange.
Telephone Exchange.

Behind the canteen is the laundry area. Industrial sized washing machines and tumble dryers alongside banks of ironing boards – labelled up with stickers advising on asbestos.

Among the exploring world, the main “attraction” in Burlington is no doubt the Telephone Exchange. Immaculately preserved and the biggest exchange of its type in the world, it takes your breath away.

Time was running out and we needed to get out before we were locked in for the night! In hindsight, it would have been a lot better if we had been! I’d have got a lot more photos and seen much more of the bunker, that’s for sure!

On our way out we decided to see what would happen if we just walked around, bold as brass. We must have walked past seven or eight workers, none of them even batting an eyelid, one even acknowledged us with an, “alright” as we made our way to the exit.

I don’t think this will be the last of Burlington, but what exactly were the workmen doing down there? Asbestos removal was definitely being carried out. Perhaps it’ll just turn in to a glorified storage unit?… Until next time, Burlington.

Thanks to Kinger for using some of his photos

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Comments

64 responses to “Burlington Bunker, under RAF Corsham, Wiltshire”

  1. davieboi1606 says:

    If anyone can please help me I used to have an entry point but has been sealed very tight with brickwork and bars. If anyone could please send me either a picture and rough location or even a screen shot on Google Maps I would be immensely grateful.

  2. Michael Ney says:

    You have to remember that in the late 1960s Britain had test-fired a thermo-nuclear device, The Soviets were developing bigger, better and more accurate delivery missiles and had stolen nuclear secrets from the UK and US which they had then built on so they had a huge stock of “H-bombs”.

    The UK was America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier with bases all over the country with free-fall, stand-off and, later, “fire-and-forget” cruise missiles. At Fylingdales there was (still is) an RAF radar monitoring station and every sensor looked east. In 1962 we came right to the brink during the Cuban missile crisis. Having been caught with their trousers down in 1939, the Government really believed it could happen, indeed, it might well happen.

    The Soviets could launch a land attack from East Germany and be in Bordeaux in six weeks, Every Police officer, regular or special, was issued with the Police War Duties Manual. Every Police Station and rural office was fitted with the repeater from Fylingdales which would give “the four minute warning” and it was checked every duty shift. In 1968 the Soviets rolled their tanks into Czeckoslovakia (as it then was) and brutally suppressed a democratic rising.

    A system was devised to preserve the Country, the civil power, the means of retaliation and what of the civil population could be saved, exercises were carried out, planning was done so that we would be ready if the Soviets really did press the button. We knew they could, we believed that given the chance of getting away with it, they would and that the UK was the prime target in Europe.

    Yes, all that expenditure turned out to be “wasted” but if Kruschev had said “GO” then it might all have turned out very differently. Perhaps it also warned the Soviets that we had prepared, we might not be annihilated in the first strike, that we might mete out retaliation and destroy an equal number of their cities before the UK was fried from end to end which might just not make the game worth the candle.

    Si vis pacem, para bellum

  3. Michael Ney says:

    “War Plan UK” has quite a bit about the Corsham tunnel system as well as the “Rotor” bunkers that would be regional seats of gorvernment. The Rotors are now well known though they were still secret when Duncan Campbell wrote the book. One was recently busted because it was being used as a cannabis growing factory!

    • Nicco di-piazza says:

      Is it accessible? Could I make a YouTube video on it?

      • Ash Turner says:

        Hi I’m working in the area and trying to get a group of us to go and explore I don’t know if you have any leads on how to get in or from what part to get in to.

        Do you still fancy doing a YouTube video would be good to get 6-10 people involved to have a look and explore.

  4. Mark Jes says:

    Was this complex used in WW2? As I heard they used to assemble crated jeeps around here, also was there a stock of steam locomotives stored here, in “readiness” for the cold war?

  5. Kevin Gross says:

    Hello,
    Just to give you some info on Burlington.

    Back in the early 70s my Grandfather drove me around the secure site above this place. I think it was called HMS Arthur with lots of individual huts and all looked very well kept. He used to work underground there as a carpenter for many years most probably helping to develop the bunker in Burlington.

    My Mother was a stage dancer back in the 40s before she married and once her group performed down there. They were blindfolded and escorted down in a lift. She says it was all military personnel and they had a proper stage arena to entertain!

    She didn’t know too much as her father didn’t talk about the work he was doing in later years. He did bring home some nails and screws in tobacco tins which I still have a couple of!

    Unfortunately he died in his early 60s from cancer and apparently many of his fellow work mates suffered the same fate. Strange?

    He also took me to the entrance to Box Tunnel Corsham side and I could see the light at the other end which was most rare. Vaguely remember the side rail entrance into Spring.

    I spoke with my mother about this recently and I have some other stories… which compelled me to write you a few lines. Would love to visit!

    Regards

  6. Anon says:

    There is a secret looking bunker on Equine Way Newbury, with a hidden entrance at Haysoms Drive. It is right next to/on the old Greenham Common, but conveniently left off the map! There is a space for it on the map, it’s just totally blank. There are loads of private keep out signs and deep water signs. The entrance seems to be under a bridge at the entrance to Haysoms Drive. There are houses built on top too with new looking ventilation pipes sticking out of the ground. Would love to know what it is and if it is still in use! Also why it was left off the map. You used to be able to see the entrance better but fully grown trees seem to have been planted there since. It looked like a rather large bunker entrance door. What intrigues me is the new looking ventilation pipes on the surface, surely the biggest giveaway to any bunker. I think I read on planning permission it is a “landfill site”, although why the huge metal bunker door and all the keep out private property warning signs, and all the fully grown trees suddenly planted there.

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      I’ve done a bit of research on this and can’t find anything that suggests the field is any more than an old landfill site and before that a ‘gravel pit’. I suspect the door under the bridge is a service room. I’d love to be proved wrong but without seeing it with my own eyes it’s hard to pass judgement.

      Methane Field, Newbury

    • Nicco di-piazza says:

      Have you been inside I want to go look!

  7. box mine exlporer says:

    Hi Urban,
    When I was a kid (13) I lived above this complex. We lived 5 minutes from the old iron back door on the A4 and spent every weekend in the mines. We knew every rock, turning, crane, junction, camera ladder, cistern, etc etc from Box to Corsham (all underground) we even found a huge horse shoe bat colony that no one knew existed :-) We got chased out of the MOD sections now and again but just treated it as a bit of harmless fun :-)

    About a year or so after we’d stopped going down there I got an opportunity to go on an official guided MOD tour (setup by a friend of the family who was retiring from a senior mod post).

    We saw a lot of very sensitive stuff including – computers (the size of houses!) And a large map on the wall showing the Queens bunker and a lake! All very interesting and stuff I’d never seen.

    What a lot of people don’t know is that at the time (Cold War) this was the first strike in a nuclear attack as it would have severed all western communications! Everyone living in the area knew it!

    About halfway through the tour our guide (senior MOD) recognised me as ‘one of those little bastards who kept breaking in’ lol. We were both chatting and laughing after that, but he told me that in all of the mines history, me and my mate were the only 2 to get in and out without being caught (a feat even the SAS never achieved) lol

    I’ve got great memories of Box mines :-)

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      What a brilliant story! From an era when kids knew how to have fun, get out the house and explore! I like the mention of the SAS, it goes to show if you know the underground workings well enough, familiarity & experience trumps all!

    • Nicco di-piazza says:

      Can you take me!? I make YouTube videos and love going on adventures!

      • box mine exlporer says:

        Hi Nicco, sorry mate last time I was over there the iron door now has a padlock on it – you’ll need to ask about on here for an entrance.
        It’s a great place to visit, haven’t been down there in over 30 years! Lol

  8. Liam says:

    Is this place still open maybe thinking going there? Thanks in advance.

  9. Daniel marshman says:

    Burlington is mad, never been there, but been to the “red door” countless times, you do a 360 and you’re lost, you can go very, very deep where there’s no graffiti, that’s when it’s scary, it becomes manmade, brickwork, pillars, tunnels, cables, random doors and platforms, brickwork robots, there is art down there, and great carvings and maths on the stone, from ancient all sorts of machinery, rotting woods, tools that are so rusted, wells, tank, cathedral, it kills it literally good day out. You gotta be good on your feet though, Spring Quarry back door entrance, got escorted out of there for trespassing last night by MOD police, the bloke was pretty sound to be fair but boy did that shit us up when they came, he was stern but fair had a dog as well, think we just got a caution but not sure. Hope we don’t here nothing else back there was 5 of us, such a interesting complex, don’t wanna get fucked for what was a great day out, thanks for anyone reading. Daniel Marshman

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      Sounds like you had a good day out! Spring is partially used for underground data storage now so will be monitored even heavier than before. Box though is a great place to explore and you’ll find something new every time – just don’t rely too heavily on the graffiti to navigate, a lot of it is completely wrong and you don’t know what you’re following. Get some maps & a compass to be 100% sure.

    • Jack A says:

      Do you know if it was just bad luck that you were caught or was it a sensor that alerted the MOD Police? Thanks

  10. rich says:

    Hi Mr. Urban. I have explored the Box mines side many times and have seen some great and some very weird things but have never made it through the large red door that connects the 2. It’s been several years since I have been in the mines and am now wondering if it’s worth a return visit if the door is now useable. Have you explored Box much and seen all the strange red brick sculptures and the area known as the cathedral? Rich

    • sky says:

      Is this a good place for a teen to go explore with his dad? If so please write back. If it is not please tell me where there is a better place to go exploring thanks.

      • Jay says:

        can’t say I’d advise going all the way round here as just a teen maybe just to the cathedral and back, personally I’d say to check out Swan mine it’s much easier to navigate (you literally can’t get lost) and its not much further, Remember to go prepared

    • Jay says:

      Last I was at the red door (few weeks ago) it’s still dead shut, wouldn’t have thought it will be open again but we can always hope!

  11. curtis says:

    Have you ever been or found any entrances to brentwater?

  12. james says:

    Hi there love this site a few months back I went down Box with a few friends but we would all love to visit Burlington is there any information on entrances into the complex?

  13. S says:

    Hi

    I’ve been fascinated by Burlington ever since I heard about it a few years ago. I’m ex MOD but unfortunately I never got the opportunity to go anywhere near it.

    Are you planning any excursions to Box/Freestone any time soon? Or Monkton Farleigh? It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, especially to see the “Red Door”, but I’ve lost contact with a lot of my old exploring partners now, and people on 28DL don’t seem particularly helpful, despite the fact I’ve been on there since the early days.

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      No plans I’m afraid, but there’s always groups of explorers heading to Box. Sorry I can’t be more helpful mate.

    • Matt says:

      Hi mate I can take you to the red doors in Box Mine if you like there is more than one been there many times so wouldn’t take too long to get to them :)

      • DRaven says:

        Hey, I’ve been to Box quite a few times but never seen the red door, not even sure which way to get to it. I’ve been to the Cathedral, which signs (graffiti) do I need to look out for to get to the red door. Plus is it easier getting there from back door or jacks? Thanks

      • Ryan kirby says:

        Hi me and some mates have been exploring the caves/mines in Box wouldn’t mind meeting up with you, you seem to know your stuff I’ve got a ton of pictures I could show you. We went again last night we have been struggling to find the red door we have seen the crane though.

      • Lola says:

        Can you take me to this, I document and have a film crew. I urban explore and have a website facebook me search Lola Cavey

      • Mike says:

        Anyone able to send a picture marking a or the red doors on a map of the mine please?

  14. mark crossland says:

    This all looks amazing have been looking everywhere to find an entrance to this been told there is some hidden ones but can’t find the information I need. Anyone help?

  15. Beth says:

    Hi these are amazing. I’ve got the book and I’m really interested in this place and in all your photos. Thanks for sharing them. Did you get any of the murals that are in the book?

  16. luke says:

    hey adam.
    tell you what mate i love the site and am blown away with the amount of exploring you have done, keep it up. so jealous
    I’ve been living in london for the past 3 years now and have been looking at places to go explore myself, me and a couple of mates plan on going on a road trip down south of england somewhere in the near future, is there any places you can recommend, we are defiantly no professionals at this so maybe a few more of the easier places would be great. any help would be greatly appreciated.
    thanks in advance.
    luke

    • Thanks Luke, the truth is, this is only half of it!! Most sites I can’t publish as they’re too precious! Ha!

      As for your South Coast trip. Where exactly? Exploring definitely gets easier the more rural you are, less eyes on you than in London and suburban areas

      • luke says:

        living the dream mate.
        i bet some of the places you have been are incredible.
        super jealous.
        as for the south cost trip man we don’t really have any plans as yet we where thinking of get down around bournemouth way just working our way down slowly. but then again if there isn’t much to see or explore we are open to any suggestions.
        what would you recommend mate?
        thanks in advance.

  17. Peter Cliff says:

    You may be interested to know there is a book about Burlington: http://www.bradford-on-avon.org.uk/burlington.html – my wife got me it for Christmas last year and it is ace. Even more so when our house is pretty much over it! Great site!

  18. Sean says:

    Absolutely fascinating read Adam! I’m from Birmingham in the West Midlands and recently became fascinated by the underground when I came across articles on ww2 tunnels underneath the rover car plant in longbridge and the birmingham anchor exchange underneath the city centre built in the 50’s. Burlington blows both out of the water though, the extent of this place is incredible. All three are places I hope to explore one day. I understand safety is paramount when approaching these kind of explorations and would be greatful if you could give a rookie any tips on how to approach these tasks, general research, rules etc. Hope to see more from you, thanks again for the read!

  19. Steve says:

    Fantastic photos Adam, thanks for posting them. I heard part of this was given listed status by English Heritage? Does that mean it will be open to the public at any point? Or is it already accessible? Cheers.

  20. ryan galbraith says:

    hi adam im been fascinated with these secretive things all my life i new about the bunker for years only now finding out where it is is there any tips you have for gaining access to it at all i need to get in side badly plz mail me

  21. Ed says:

    Hello Adam,

    Great pictures, I’ve been trying to find out more about this place for a while, it looks amazing. Having been to Chernobyl (yes really) this kind of cold war stuff really interests me… Any tips on how to get in there?

    Yours hopefully,
    Ed

    Ed Isaacs

  22. Geoff says:

    Hi Adam,

    Your site makes some fantastic viewing. I am very envious of your access to Burlington having seen the clips of what lies within – what an incredibly spooky place it must be !

    I live in Wareham, close to Holton Heath and my son and I have been fascinated by the old RN cordite factory since we moved here, but have only seen the various mounds through the trees and the perimeter fence from the Sandford Rd. Was it fairly easy to get into and do you think if anyone caught us in there would be much fuss ? I’ve never seen anyone patrolling or anything.

    All the best,
    Geoff.

    • Adam says:

      Hi Geoff,

      I live in Poole too an have explored the Holten Heath site and Burlington. There are a few interesting bits in Holten Heath and i found it fairly easy to access but recently they have improved the perimeter fence probably due to bunker explorers like myself we went through and underground bit and even climbed a ladder to a kind of pill box at the top. There’s lots of random structures there too but its such a large area. As for Burlington I did alot of research before staying there for 3 days. I used maps and google with a bit of photoshop and overlayed them. I did find a way in but it led me to a huge door plus i wasn’t properly kitted out and after a few junctions in the tunnels decided i may get lost so turned back. I used the idea of the ventilation system which has inlets scattered around the whole area. I found my way in a group of random trees which had steps to an iron gate which already someone had cut. Anyway would like to hook up as you sound like me and are local. Plus in Sopley area is another bunker which i found and visted but cant get anywhere near and its well hidden by just a random bungalow on top. It use to be a command post for RAF Sopley which funny enough had a barracks near by which is derelict today. Would love to share info and if any one knows anymore bunkers in the Dorset area to contact me. I have also visted the smaller roc bunkers that are all over Dorset one good one is in six penney handley still accessable but empty in a camping site. Anyway if anyone knows more or would like to contact please email me. Adam

  23. David says:

    Hi Adam,What interesting reading your website is, my eight year old son is researching the second world war at school so we’ve been looking into local sites (nr Ringwood). I don’t think we’ll be delving as deeply as you but its amazing how many interesting sites are on our doorstep! Thanks again,David

    • Thanks for the comments David. There definitely plenty of sites around the Ringwood area I could point you in the direction of if you’re interested? All publicly accessible and above board too. Fire me an e-mail :)

    • cheeseangel says:

      I am doing World War Two for my project at school and I chose to do Burlington. It’s really interesting but quite hard to find different information :( :). It’s so cool because my Dad has been down there and it’s basically under my feet!!!!!!!!!!

  24. nathan says:

    Hello, I like your story of burlington, me and a few friends have been trying to find a way in for a few years now, we have come across a couple of doors like this one but cant get through them, is that the only way in? Couldd you email me explaining where it is? I would be very grateful if you could.
    P.s do you know where do get the map from?
    s

  25. Kinger says:

    Good times :)

    Seems like a lifetime ago already…

  26. Simon Banks says:

    Hi, interesting to read your story and look at your photographs. What I think is most extraordinary is that in the 1970’s I was aware of stories that told of these mysterious places, underground bunkers that were put aside for government, councils and other people of prominence to take to in the event of a nuclear war. Nothing was ever made public of course. Now we know that the rumours were in fact based on truth. Another rumour of the time was that of the local university being a target for an enemy attack (a nuclear target) and the reason being was that it was some how involved in an experiment that was related to the defence of the country. It would appear that the truth was in fact to do with the computer and computing development that was going on at the university which was connected to the early development of the internet.

    The other rumour that was prolific at this time was that Phillips had developed an electric light that would burn forever.

    What intrigues me now of course is that although these ideas were just rumours when I first heard about them with the fullness of time they have become established as having a lot of truth to them. Whilst it is difficult to proove any of this as a) I did not keep records and b) there was never any written evidence it does seem to me to be more of a coincidence that with time these things have developed as they have.

    What intrigues me now is what rumours about today will become far more than just rumours in years to come.

    best wishes,

    Simon banks

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