Source/Archive record SSF56353 - Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Orford Ness, Suffolk Cold War Research & Development Site Survey Report

Title Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Orford Ness, Suffolk Cold War Research & Development Site Survey Report
Date/Year 2009
English Heritage Research Department Report 10-2009


The Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Orford Ness, Suffolk, was operational between 1956 and 1972. Its primary task was environmental testing to simulate the conditions that nuclear weapons and their components might experience during trials and in service use. Here science and high politics merged, with investigations that were crucial to the credibility of the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent forces, the cornerstone of Cold War defence policy. Prior to the 20th century Orford Ness was a rarely visited place; the main economic activity was animal grazing on reclaimed marsh land. During the First World War the Royal Flying Corps established a flying field on the marshes and associated buildings along ‘The Street’. It was principally used for experimental work into aerial machine guns, bombs, navigation, and photography, a role that continued into the inter-war period. In 1935, a small experimental radar team arrived and conducted experiments that were critical in proving the value of this technology. This report is primarily concerned with the development of the post-war Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. To understand these developments a brief summary of the earlier military activity is also provided. Orford Ness is owned by the National Trust.



Referenced Monuments (60)

  • A aircraft hangar of World War I date (Monument)
  • A First World War barracks block (Monument)
  • A military machine shop of World War II date (Monument)
  • A World War One bomb store or armoury (Monument)
  • A World War one motor transport shed (Monument)
  • Antenna circa 1960 (Monument)
  • Boiler House circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Bomb Ballistics Building circa 1933 (Monument)
  • Canteen and Electrical workshop (Monument)
  • Centrifuge circa 1966 (Monument)
  • Cobra mist (Monument)
  • Compound circa 1950s (Monument)
  • Contractors workshop (Monument)
  • Control Room circa 1960 (Monument)
  • Control Room, circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Electrical Sub Station 2 circa 1961 (Monument)
  • Electricity Substation 1 (Monument)
  • Electronics Workshop and Plinth G (Monument)
  • Electronics Workshop and Plinth G (Monument)
  • Former RFC Officers' Mess and AWRE canteen building (Monument)
  • Fuze magazine dated circa 1936 (Monument)
  • Fuze magazine dated circa 1936 (Monument)
  • Fuze Magazine dated circa 1936 (Monument)
  • Garage and Store (Monument)
  • Headquarters circa 1956 (Monument)
  • HQ offices, AEAC + PBX (Day) (Monument)
  • Impact Facility circa 1963-1964 (Monument)
  • Laboratory 1 Large Vibration, circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Laboratory 2 Centrifuge, circa 1957 (Monument)
  • Laboratory 3 Climatic Testing, circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Laboratory Store, circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Lavatory circa 1962 (Monument)
  • Magazine circa 1962 (Monument)
  • Magazine dating from 1916 (Monument)
  • Magazine store dated circa 1916 (Monument)
  • Marine navigation beacon tower circa 1928 (Monument)
  • Mess Room circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Metal store (Monument)
  • Office Annexe circa 1959 (Monument)
  • Offices and electrical workshop (Monument)
  • Offices and first aid, boiler house, and fire station (Monument)
  • Offices and Stores (Monument)
  • Old range control (Monument)
  • Orford Ness (Monument)
  • Plinth E circa 1950s (Monument)
  • Plinth F circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Police Lookout Tower circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Power house associated with a marine navigation beacon tower circa 1933 (Monument)
  • Pump House circa 1961 (Monument)
  • Rifle range (Monument)
  • Sewage pumping house (Monument)
  • Small Vibration Laboratory circa 1956 (Monument)
  • Static Water Tank (Monument)
  • Toilet circa 1955 (Monument)
  • Vibration Test Building circa 1960 (Monument)
  • Vibration Test Building circa 1960 (Monument)
  • WWI/WWII building (Monument)
  • WWI/WWII building (Monument)
  • WWI/WWII building of unknown use (Monument)
  • WWI/WWII building of unknown use (Monument)

Referenced Events (1)

  • Field survey of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Orford Ness by English Heritage, June 2009 (Ref: OASIS-englishh2-64262)

Record last edited

Mar 16 2018 12:54PM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.