Tuesday, 25 October 2011


About a quarter of a mile away from my workshop on the edge of Wiltshire, this corrugated iron structure sits rotting away quietly next to the Paddington to Bristol railway line. You will have seen it flash by you if you have made that journey.

Up until about 5 years ago, a separate spur off the railway track still existed running on a concrete structure which connected to this series of marshaling lines....

... which converge into 2 tracks which run down a steep incline, then turn a sharp left to rise up and deep into the hill, and this channel has bays either side of it for storage. What did it store? Thousands of tons of bombs on their way to every part of the British Isles, to RAF air bases and from thence to Germany in WW2.

I cannot remember the exact statistics, but I think that about half of all the bombs dropped on Germany from England during the entire war spent some time down this mine shaft - that is a lot of bombs.

There used to be an old man who turned up to my workshop about once a month to spend some time wandering about his old station whilst his wife was having her hair done nearby, and he told me that only one person was killed here during the conflict. That man was changing a light-bulb whilst standing in a pool of water and was electrocuted. I haven't seen the old man for a few years, so I am guessing that he too is now dead.

For years, nobody took any notice of the isolated place aside from industrial archeologists and cave explorers, then the 1980s arrived and the underground network was used for raves and parties. When the party-goers left (or grew up) the place was adorned with the usual graffiti, and this is still refreshed on a regular basis.

Now that the economic crash is occurring and the price of ferrous scrap has rocketed, some desperate and unsavoury characters have been blatantly going down the shaft and pulling out the huge, metal rollers that used to help trundle the 1000 pound bombs into their temporary resting places, and carting them off in an old van to sell to scrap-dealers.

The police know what is going on, but cannot be bothered to do anything about it. When the last bit of 'scrap' has been pulled out, the thieves may turn their attention to the adjacent railway line which is still in use (don't laugh - it happens every day these days). Then the police may have to do something about it, otherwise your trip from London to Bath may be more eventful than you expected.


  1. Hello Tom:
    How absolutely fascinating and although we cannot recall seeing this corrugated iron building from the train, during the period of life spent in Marlborough the London to Bath line, from Swindon station, was very much part of life.

    We wonder to whom this all know belongs? A defunct British Rail or an equally defunct War Department?

  2. As far as I know, it belongs to M J Church limited - the company which has all the grey and yellow plant which can be seen up the M4 and beyond, carrying out civil engineering.

  3. Wow. I love these derelict tales of places so ordinary that one day they become museum pieces (if they haven't been taken to bits in the meantime). Inspired a WW2 post for me too. Stay tuned.

  4. I've always liked the little 'pill boxes' one finds dotted amongst the undergrowth. No doubt they'll all be listed buildings before long... if they're not already.

  5. A fascinating place.

    Nothing is going to be left of our architectural heratige soon. Anything left to the ravages of time and weather is plundered by scum looking to make a quick buck.

    Anyone want to buy 1000yds of copper signal wiring?

  6. I have a friend who has a son who works on the London Underground and he says they even go down there stealing metal and putting their lives - and that of others - at risk.

  7. Thanks all, and - specifically to Cro - there were loads of A.A. Gun Emplacements here, as well as pill-boxes. They have all been demolished now.

    Shame, some of my best sources of soft pornography when a child were inside old pill-boxes, or 'wanking-dens' as I call them now.

  8. I heard on radio 4 that YOrk MInster has lost several wall bronze plaques ...which they cannot afford to replace....all nicked in the day time!!!

  9. Some thieves have been killed by cutting though live 440 volt cables. Darwin...