Report - RNCF - Royal Navy Cordite Factory - November 11

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Nov 16, 2011
Firstly some history pinched from Wiki

The Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath, (RNCF), was set up at Holton Heath, Dorset in World War I to manufacture Cordite for the Royal Navy. It was reactivated in World War II to manufacture gun propellants for the Admiralty and its output was supplemented by the Royal Navy Propellant Factory, Caerwent. After the end of World War II, the explosive manufacturing areas of the site were closed down and some areas of the site reopened as an Admiralty Research Establishment. A major part of the explosives site became a Nature Reserve [1] in 1981. Other parts of the site were converted into an Industrial Estate; and some may be used for housing.
The Admiralty Research Establishment became part of Defence Research Agency (DRA) and DRA Holton Heath finally closed in the late 1990s. None of the site is now owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Time for the report

This report is the combined effort of 3 visits to the RNCF on consecutive weekends. I wanted to make it 4 visits as my final explore was to be the labs but unfortunately access isn't possible at the moment so it's been referred to my "to do" list!!

I visited the RNCF with a selection of non-members. This was my first proper explore and certainly whet my appetite for more. Now I can't get enough and spend a fair amount of my spare time researching and visiting new sites.

On our first visit, we went on the wrong side of the industrial estate. While there's still a few things to see, it's certainly not so interesting. The buildings are virtually nothing now. This is one of the best ones on that side of the road


The buildings in this section were part of the Picrite and Tetryl production lines which consisted of many small buildings used as drying stoves.


I quite liked this building with no roof and only 2 walls remaining


Those are the only pictures of any interest from the first visit unless you want to see some piles of bricks and concrete?

The second visit was much more interesting as we went on the other side of the industrial estate. We found our entry point and walked straight onto what was known as Nitroglycerine Hill. The name speaks for itself as this is where the NG was produced. It was a highly volatile process and there was an explosion in 1931 which killed over 100 workers. This was kept very very quiet at the time.

Unfortunately this bunker has been backfilled otherwise I think it would have been quite impressive. All the NG buildings were built inside huge mounds of earth to help prevent damage to the rest of the plant should an explosion occur.

This building consisted of many workshop type rooms. This was also part of NG Hill but couldn't have been a dangerous part of the process as the building was a simple brick structure.

The remains of some roof structures for a building that didn't appear to exist any more

A gate that leads to nowhere

The next part we came to was the reservoir, I was excited about seeing inside this absolutely huge reservoir but unfortunately the door and entry hatches have been welded very securely closed. The only bit we had access to was the adjoining pump room

This is where the reservoir house stood on top of the reservoir itself until a couple of years ago when it was knocked down. It's a great shame!

We continued along and found the remains of this building which once would have had a corrugated iron roof. This doesn't even feature on the map so I can only assume it was for storage or something.

Next we found the Control Trench OP1, the entrance is a tiny bunker in the side of a hill. Go through some tunnels and you come out in a small bunker type room with a ladder going up to the lookout tower





We played about with some candles that had been left down there

My friend and his missus

After a long battle through very dense woodland and brambles, we found the boiler house. Unfortunately it's been graffiti'd the hell out of and had a load of tramps clothes inside so only a picture of the externals

A couple more unidentified buildings


This is a cordite press room and would have housed a large press machine inside


The next buildings were the most interesting, known as P15, P17 and P18. These seem to be the largest buildings of what's left containing several rooms each. You can still find the mixing baths inside one of the buildings but they're all heavily waterlogged.







Finally, some distance from the RNCF factory is the old gun tower which used to have a Bofors anti aircraft gun on top to protect from enemies.

I hope you enjoyed the report!


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