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RAF Barnham, Suffolk

During the height of the Cold War in the 1950s and early 1960s, RAF Barnham and RAF Faldingworth in Lincolnshire were the only two sites in the UK for the long-term storage and servicing of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, Blue Danube. The site at Barnham was abandoned when nuclear technology changed in the early 1960s. It subsequently became an industrial estate, and almost all of the significant buildings and earthworks remain.

In 2008 acta completed a conservation management plan for the site, setting out measures to repair the key buildings and structures and to bring under control the vegetation that threatened to dominate the landscape.

Many of the original RAF plans survive and this allowed detailed appraisals to be made of each structure. Working with the advice of English Heritage specialists and the original RAF records, it was possible to develop an understanding of the way that the servicing operations were carried out. The relative importance of buildings could also be identified.

With grant aid from English Heritage/Historic England, the owner began a programme of repair of the key buildings and fences and had the site substantially cleared of trees. The repairs included:

  • a group of ‘hutches’ which held the fissile cores
  • watchtowers
  • fences
  • the gantries for lifting bombs into the weapons stores
  • the inner gatehouse
  • inspection buildings.

We were invited back in 2017 to revise the conservation management plan and make a full record of these improvements. Prescriptions for the maintenance and management of buildings and vegetation were set out. The understanding section of the plan was expanded to include an assessment of the Operations Record Books for RAF Faldingworth. This shed light on the way that maintenance of the conventional parts of the bombs was dealt with and how the successor devices to Blue Danube were handled.

  1. One of the restored watch towers set within reinstated grassland between the main security fences
  2. Most of the invasive conifers and birch were cleared in 2013, leaving the lime trees that were planted in the 1950s when the site was laid out. One of the gantries and a group of hutches can be seen in the distance
  3. The gantries have been repaired, repainted and re-roofed and the retained runway beam can be seen
  4. This was the last convoy to leave RAF Faldingworth in 1972
  5. The site in 1963
  6. The main loop road through the site in 2008 before vegetation clearance