Royal Naval Cordite Factory, Holton Heath, Dorset
Having previously visited the laboratories at Holton Heath it was a long time coming that I actually pulled my finger out and explored the rest of the Royal Naval Cordite Factory!
Across the road from the labs is the main site of the Royal Naval Cordite Factory (RNCF). Officially closed in 1997 the RNCF was used during World War 1 & 2 to make the propellant in shells, cordite.
The area, now extremely over-grown and boggy is quite difficult to navigate without a map, but luckily I teamed up with a couple of local light-painting photographers who’ve spent a lot of time on the site. (Link & link – thanks guys!).
Our first stop was one of the many underground chambers in the area. Relatively small with no existing features but interesting nonetheless. The white tiled walls still gleaming and giving off a sense of cleanliness amongst the undergrowth. Next we checked out one of the many shelters sunk in to a hillside, used in the event of an air-strike, with the entry/exit points winding to deflect any blast debris.
Atop this hillside is Observation Post 1 (OP1). A small, circular building, quite charming in fact and which wouldn’t look out of place in The Shire sits on the surface with slits for viewing the war-time skies. In the centre of OP1 is a ladder which descends to the underground monitoring and comms room, where approximately a dozen stations were set up with telephones, ready to call in any enemy sightings.
A short walk through the woods brought us to the reservoirs. A massive expanse, capable of holding 3,000,000 gallons of water in each side. One side of the reservoir had been open to the elements and with the attention of seagulls and other wildlife, it was decided to place disused cordite trays on the surface of the water. Unforeseen, nitro-glycerine had seeped from the wooden trays in to the water supply and caused head aches on site! In 1934, it was finally decided to build a roof.
Unfortunately this is where my exploring finished, but a plan to go back later in the year and update this report is in the pipeline…
If you’re interested in learning more about RNCF I recommend buying the ‘Cordite!’ DVD from Greenacre AV Productions.