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Drakelow Tunnels: an underground compound in England, built in 1941, that holds many secrets

The Kingsford Country Park in Worcestershire, England, appears not to be much different from any other park across the country. It covers an area of 200 acres in a pine and broad-leaved forest, offering a beautiful natural resort. But beneath the woodland lies the true secret of Kingsford Park: 3.5 miles of top-secret tunnels.

Drakelow Tunnels, which were built in 1941, cover some 280,000 square feet beneath the ground of Kingsford Park. The network was initially built as an underground facility by the British Government in which the Rover car factory, which turned its capacities to help the war effort, was to manufacture engines for the Bristol Aeroplane Company. The so-called shadow factory was commissioned in 1941, and it began operating in May 1943.

The compound was originally named the Drakelow Underground Dispersal Factory, and it served as the backup facility in case the two main shadow factories run by Rover in Acocks Green were somehow compromised by enemy action.

Once in motion, the factory began producing vital parts for Mercury and Pegasus radial engines until July 1945.

The famous Drakelow tunnel clock.Photo by: alexlomas/FLickr-CC By 2.0
The famous Drakelow tunnel clock.Photo by: alexlomas/FLickr-CC By 2.0

After the war, the compound beneath the Kingsford Park was turned into a tank-engine factory until 1958, when it was handed over to the Ministry of Supply, which mainly used it as storage space. However, as the Cold War tensions continued to rise, Drakelow Tunnels were given a yet another new role. In 1961, the compound was designated by the Home Office as a Regional Seat of Government.

It was intended to accommodate a staff of 325 in case of a nuclear assault. The Regional Seat of Government was supposed to act and co-ordinate in the aftermath of a nuclear bombing. Tunnels from 1 to 4 were equipped with dormitories and offices that included a BBC studio and a GPO Telephones communications facility, together with toilets and other living quarters.

During the 1980s, it was modernized, but its staff capacity was reduced to 134. The modernization included new blast doors and refurbishment of the interior.

Drakelow Tunnel Photo by: alexlomas/FLickr-CC By 2.0
Drakelow Tunnel Photo by: alexlomas/FLickr-CC By 2.0

Luckily, the need for such measures was never necessary and, as of 1993, the underground labyrinth that had assumed different roles throughout the 50-year period was declared surplus and was sold to private owners who made plans for redeveloping the site into a residential and commercial park. Of course, this meant that the tunnels would be demolished in order for construction to begin.

However, the Drakelow Tunnels Preservation Trust, which was founded by local citizens around the time of the sale, managed to convince the authorities that the tunnels are a site of national value. Plans for construction of a residential settlement were thus halted.

Parts of Drakelow Tunnels were turned into a Cold War museum, while other parts include a rental filming location, an Airsoft course, and training grounds for military and the police.

Drakelow Tunnel Entrance Photo by: alexlomas/FLickr-CC By 2.0
Drakelow Tunnel Entrance Photo by: alexlomas/FLickr-CC By 2.0

The Drakelow Tunnels Preservation Trust also advertises the location as a paranormal activity site. Allegedly, music and other noises were heard on various occasions by the caretaker and some other witnesses in the desolate underground facility, although no audio equipment was present. Also, reports of smoke and other signs of fire were noted, even though no traces of fire were found afterward.

This attracted the attention of the British TV show Most Haunted , which featured Drakelow Tunnels in an episode in 2014.

Apart from its use in the film industry and as a recreational facility, and from being a paranormal activity hub, the compound ended up in newspaper headlines in November 2013, after a police raid in which 885 cannabis plants were confiscated. The estimated worth of drugs seized during the police operation was £650,000. Apparently, the caretaker of the tunnels rented the space to a gang that ran the drug operation inside.

Related story from us: New secret tunnel discovered under the Pyramid of the Moon in Mexico may have been built to replicate the underworld

Nevertheless, with all its ups and downs, the compound still functions as the largest underground space in the UK open to the general public, continuing to attract curious visitors and history enthusiasts alike.

Nikola Budanovic

Nikola Budanovic is a freelance journalist who has worked for various media outlets such as Vice, War History Online,The Vintage News, Taste of Cinema,etc. He mostly deals with subjects such as military history and history in general, literature and film.