Burlington Bunker

© Crown Copyright: image reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

The former emergency relocations site for the government in the event of nuclear attack, the site has been abandoned since the 1980s since which time it has been kept as a decoy site until it's declassification at the end of 2004. Burlington has had many code names since it's conception in the early 50s, these include Stockwell, Subterfuge, Turnstile and more recently Site 3.

Posted by Higgypop Admin last updated Sun 07 Apr 2013 at 20:54

Corsham, Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Grid reference: ST846692

No access

No access - this is a Ministry of Defence site.

Visited by 7 explorers

Photos of Burlington Bunker

Burlington Bunker history

Many people in the UK will know about and even have visited the Cabinet War Rooms in London, the government emergency war headquarters until the end of World War II but very few people will know anything about the secret bunker which took over from this Central London location in the early 60s.

The Emergency Government War Headquarters (EGWHQ) in Corsham was, until recently, one of the Ministry of Defence's best kept secrets. Although conspiracy theorists have pestered the MOD and urban explorers have pushed their limits trying to get in to the bunker, few members of the public has ever seen inside.

For the last few decades, although known about despite the MOD denials, no details or photos of the bunker have leaked out through the blast proof walls, until very recently. The bunker has gone through many different code names including Hawthorn Central Government War Headquarters, Stockwell, Subterfuge, Turnstile and Burlington, over recent years it has been referred to by the MOD as Site 3.

EGWHQ was constructed in the Northern part of Spring Quarry, originally an underground Bath stone quarry. Quarrymen from the Bath and Portland Stone Company were asked to drop tools when Spring Quarry was taken over by the Ministry of Aircraft Production in 1940. Work started the following year converting the quarry in to the biggest underground factory in the country with a bill of over £20,000,000.

In the late 40s the cabinet started drawing up plans for an emergency war headquarters outside of London, sat directly under RAF Rudloe Manor, the northern part of Spring Quarry made the perfect secure location for the site.

This was to become the alternative seat of power in the event of a nuclear strike on the UK. Housing the Prime Minister, Cabinet Office, local and national government agencies, intelligence and security advisors and domestic support staff.

Conversion worked started on a 161,000 square meter section of Spring Quarry towards the end of the 50s and by 1961 the bunker was put in to operation.

EGWHQ adjoins the MOD's Tunnel Quarry, originally part of the Central Ammunitions Depot, this quarry has its own branch line at the Eastern end of Box Tunnel on the main train line from London and an underground station. This meant that the government could quickly evacuate from Whitehall and be taken straight to the secure bunker facility.

The Prime Minister and key cabinet members would have been flown to the site by helicopter. The bunker was designed to safely house up to 4,000 government ministers and civil servants in a totally self sufficient, blast proof, radiation proof bunker, 1km long and 200 meters across, 100 feet below Corsham.

Site 3 had all the facilities the inhabitants would need to survive over a sustained period of time, there was a medical centre with examination rooms, wards and a dental surgery, a bakery, a laundry and the bunker had two kitchens and canteen areas.

There was also a well stocked library containing a small but important collection of books, a database on which it was hoped the devastated country could be rebuilt. This included maps, scientific and technical manuals and acts of Parliament.

The bunker contained accommodation for the Prime Minister and his family, despite their importance the room set a side for the PM was the same as most of the other rooms in the complex except for the PM's walls had been whitewashed. The PM's accommodation included a private bathroom with toilet, sink and bath. Elsewhere in the bunker washrooms were provided with showers and rows of wash basins.

Travel around the bunker was by battery powered vehicles which were stored and charge in their own underground vehicle depot, one of these vehicles has "ALIEN" written where you would expect to find a registration plate, the conspiracy theorists will be pleased to learn that there was at least one alien underground in Corsham after all.

The bunker's vast storeroom had rows of metal shelves with everything from stationery to glass ashtrays, from toilet brushes to teapots. The bunker was also packed with tinned food, office equipment and enough fuel to run the large generators for three months. The bunker is so large that all the main corridors are sign posted using American-style names such as First Avenue.

The Government once safely inside Site 3 could run the country as normal with help from the MI5 and MI6 from the Prime Minister's map room. The bunker's primary role was to act as a hub and maintain communications within the UK and with the outside world, there was a huge telephone exchange to keep them in touch with various parts of the country.

The telephone exchange is still fitted with giant wooden switchboards dating back to the 50s, Site 3 is the only place that this technology still exists. There are also telephone directories which were kept up to date until 1989. A teleprinter room has stacks of unused office chairs remain, all in their original plastic wrappers.

In the early 80s the Emergency Government War Headquarters was given an overhaul as part of the expansion of the UK Monitoring and Warning Organisations. A large section of the bunker was separated from the rest and converted in to a Nuclear Reporting cell which employed between 50 and 100 staff, this area of the quarry was never put in to operation and is today known as the Quarry Operations Centre, office space for the remaining maintenance staff working underground at Corsham.

The bunker was kept stocked and maintained until the early 90s when the staff of around 50 was reduced to just four.

In 1991 the cabinet refused a £40 million upgraded and the bunker was wound down, it was slowly emptied of fuel and food supplies and the huge underground reservoir was drained. The bunker did however remained part of the MOD estate and on the care and maintains books costing the country on average £500,000 a year to maintain and was still an integral part of government's war plans therefore the site remained classified. The site was kept on stand-by, ready to put back in to action in the event that the government required it due to a threat to the UK.

By the mid 90s Site 3 was starting to drive the conspiracy theorists nuts. Believing that Burlington as part of RAF Rudloe Manor was a sinister part of what they called the UK's own version of Area 51, their wild speculations included claims that Rudloe Manor was the home of UK UFO research and that Burlington was a facility in which the government stored captured UFOs or worked with aliens to achieve mind altering technologies.

Of course, there's no smoke without fire and RAF Rudloe Manor, now known as JSU Corsham, have now confirmed that they had previously been involved in the subject of aerial complaints, although only in an administrative capacity, the reports were simply forwarded to London and no further action was taken on site.

The final stage of Site 3's life had been to act as a decoy site for the Command and Control Centre, located near-by in Corsham. In December 2004 Site 3 was declassified. The future of bunker is now uncertain, the MOD have already started offering parts of Spring Quarry to development to private investors and it looks like Site 3 will go the same way. The MOD is looking for a company to bring new life to the site. English Heritage have also expressed an interest in preserving part of the site for historic interest.

Watch the BBC News story about the sale of Burlington bunker. Offers for the 35 acre, 1950s nuclear bunker were being accepted by the Ministry of Defence in 2006.


In the news

  • German Cold War bunker dwarfs Burlington

    Posted by Higgypop Admin on Mon 18 Aug 2008 at 20:54
    From: VK Mag

    With the threat of the Cold War looming in the late 80s the UK government made plans to hide underground and Burlington was born, but a German Democratic Republic bunker existed which dwarfed Burlington.

  • New Burlington website

    Posted by Higgypop Admin on Mon 18 Aug 2008 at 20:54
    From: have launched a brand new mini-site which aims to be the ultimate online source for Burlington information, photos and videos.


More information


Documents & scans


Further reading



Related venues

  • MOD Corsham

    Now known by the name MOD Corsham and formerly JSU Corsham (Joint Service Unit) and RAF Rudloe Manor. A large military site which sits directly above the MOD's underground tunnel complex. During the Second World War the underground site made up part of a massive ammunitions depot and the world's largest underground factory. Later these tunnels became a government's emergency relocation site and various communication bunkers were also set up here.
  • Spring Quarry

    A large stone quarry which was converted by the air ministry during WWII, the quarry housed the world's largest underground factory. Later it became Royal Navy stores and part of the factory was converted in the government's emergency relocation site in the event of nuclear attack. Spring Quarry joins the south edge Tunnel Quarry, it also joins the smaller abandoned Sands Quarry.

Cabinet War Rooms
Whitehall, London, United Kingdom


Sign in or create an account to comment.
Bailo   I live just down the road, The development is still ongoing currently, however they appear to have left the lift shafts well alone, for the moment anyway.
August 2015
Frankymole   If it was put up for sale in 2006, who bought it? The news all goes a bit quiet, but in 2014 there are reports of massive development seen via Google Maps.
May 2015
Cheeklollipo   I am dying to go here, but i would really love to get permission, anyone know how and who I would need to contact to arrange this.
April 2012
steveh125   hi i would love to visit these locations mainly in corsham and bristol, im mainly looking for underground tunnels or bunkers to explore. as im a big kid could someone please tell me what tunnels are open to public, or able to visit sneaky sneaky.... thanks kindly
December 2011
howy   Andy Quinn has retired. Too much asbestos in all the converted quarries. Old mines are very dangerous. Just buy Nick Mc Camley's books.
I know first hand about these quarries and MOD stores as I worked in many during the 70s. Be aware if you tresspass on MOD sites you will be arrested..
October 2010
Higgypop Admin   Not sure, I guess that is as secret as Burlington was then. There's probably a deep leve shelter in London somewhere.
August 2010
dewanthony   Yeah i would like to go around there as well please let know..........
July 2009
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