Monument record ORF 152 - Vibration Test Building circa 1960

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Vibration Test Building circa 1960, consisting of a large reinforced concrete structure, comprising a central chamber with a heavy concrete roof supported on pillars, and protected by a shingle traverse on its east and north sides.


Grid reference Centred TM 4338 4797 (37m by 33m)
Map sheet TM44NW


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

2007: Field survey of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment by Historic England (S1).
Structure E2: The Vibration Test Building is a large reinforced concrete structure, comprising a central chamber with a heavy concrete roof suppor ted on pillars, and protected by a shingle traverse on its east and north sides. To its south and east are freestanding brick plant rooms.

In the centre of the Vibration Test Building is a large central chamber dimensions, 16.47m (54ft)by 7.30m (24ft). It was entered from a passageway to the south through large wooden outward opening doors covered with metal sheeting with a small pedestrian single door to the east. To the east of the main doors was a single exterior door to the toilet room, which was lit by a metal framed 3 light window. Inside the main doorway to the west is a small recess that may have contained a fire hose. On the opposite side a staircase gives access down to the floor of the central chamber beyond this staircase another staircase provides access to an upper walkway around the main chamber. Returning to the entrance passage, in the ceiling of the passage are 3 very substantial eyehooks and 3 threaded fittings for further eyehooks. At the north end of the entrance passage is a lift pit with another pair of threaded fittings in its west wall and a further pair in the north wall overlooking the lift pit. The lift pit measures 5.2m (17ft)x 4.88m (16ft)and is 3.45m (11ft 4ins)deep. On its north and south walls pit cut off bolts mark the position of metal plates, and on its west wall are 2 metal catchplates, perhaps associated with the lift mechanism. In the south east corner of the pit.

Along the base of the north wall are 8 pipe openings, the 2 larger openings are labelled inlet and outlet and 4 are sealed by bolted circular plates. At the south east corner of the chamber a passage leads back to the air-conditioning plant on the east side of the structure. Surrounding the main chamber is an upper walkway which was formerly protected by a moveable handrail, whose fittings survive. Between the walkway and the main wall is a cable duct on the north and south walls, fixed to the main outer walls is a handrail, various electrical pipes switches and junction boxes, a single rectangular cable duct and 4 wooden mounting blocks for pressure guages, 3 of which survive. On the north and south walls are two pipes are labelled Air and Vac respectively. In the north east corner is a vertical ladder that gave access to the window level and perhaps the overhead travelling crane.

Attached to the east wall is a large square section air-conditioning duct leading to the plant room to the south. On the north, east and south walls of the main chamber pipes inserted (4 each for north and south) and (3 on the east wall)which connect back to the cable ducts around the edge of the walkway. Below these on each of the walls are pairs of circular threaded fixings.On the upper west wall of the test cell a sign records, telephone instrument room’ below it is a light fitting, another sign reads ’Vac Pump running, Vac Pump Stopped’ with light fittings above. Also on this wall are are large screw threaded fixings eyehooks and there is a single eye hook in the centre of the ceiling.

The roof of the structure is a massive concrete slab covered in shingle and supported on 16 square columns, the height from test cell floor to underside of the roof is 8.75m (28ft 8ins). The openings between the columns were originally filled with wooden framed windows and glazed with perspex panels. A ledge along the top of main chamber carried the rails for an overhead travelling crane. A plate records Becker Twin Lift Maximum Working Load 40 Ton Serial No. A-2647-2.

At the northeast corner of the main chamber a doorway gives access to a service corridor running east-west along the north side of the laboratory. For most of its length on its north side are large diameter cork insulated air-conditioning pipes. To the west a flight of stairs provides access to the top of the north lip of the lift pit and to the upper walkway around the main chamber cell this flight of stairs also gives access to a now blocked door in the north wall leading to the escape passage. A second flight of stairs to the east gives access to the plant room attached to the east side of the building.

To the south of the main chamber is a freestanding air-conditioning plant building of brick cavity wall construction faced with Burwell whites laid to stretcher bond with a flat concrete roof supported by RSJs. The building measures 11.62m (38ft 1ins)x 6.04m (19ft 10ins)and is 4m (13ft) tall. The block was divided into 2 by a brick partition wall, the larger bay to the west was entered through two pairs of wooden doors, above the eastern door is a wooden louvred vent which connects back to the air-con plant and above the western door there is a wooden 2 light window. Between the two sets of doors there is a large 3 light window at eaves height. Internally are 3 large concrete machinery mountin plinths and 1 smaller plinth, sections of metal air-ducts also survive and a metal switch cabinet to the west seems to be associated with a compresser for the lift in the main passage way. In the north wall is a larger square opening formerly with a wooden louvred vent and to the west a small square opening which carried the ducting back towards the entrance passage. An opening in the partition wall carries the ducting into the smaller and now sealed eastern bay. The main west bay was lit by 8 lamps and on its east wall is a metal water tank. The east bay was lit by a 3 light metal framed window at eaves height (now blocked). On the north wall a square section duct connects back to the main chamber.

At the south end of the main plant room is another open framed plant room constructed from 2 I section portal frames with a southerly wall of brick cavity wall construction faced in Burwell whites. In this wall is a large door opening to eaves height, the side walls to east and west were formerly infilled with wooden louvred vents with 5 light windows above. The building was also vented by 2 wooden framed clearstoreys roof vents. The exteriors of the vertical metal columns were formerly protected by copper sheeting. Internally there is a central walkway with now shingle filled cable ducts to either side a single door (now blocked) led back into the south bay of the main plant block. Along the west side of the building is a much decayed section of steel duct work. Various electrical pipes remain attached to the north wall

To the north of the building is the remains of a flag pole which seems to have also acted as a lightningrod.

The building cost £120,000 and was equipped with a Dowty hydraulic vibration system.


Sources/Archives (2)

  • <S1> Unpublished document: Cocroft, W. and Alexander, M.. 2009. Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Orford Ness, Suffolk Cold War Research & Development Site Survey Report. 10-2009. Structure No. E2.
  • <S2> Digital archive: Historic England. The National Heritage List for England. List entry Number: 1416933.

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Record last edited

Mar 16 2018 12:48PM

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