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Former World War I National Filling Factory, Banbury

A Scheduled Monument in Banbury, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 52.0588 / 52°3'31"N

Longitude: -1.3059 / 1°18'21"W

OS Eastings: 447682.778363

OS Northings: 240275.960689

OS Grid: SP476402

Mapcode National: GBR 7SW.SRW

Mapcode Global: VHCW8.9JZ2

Entry Name: Former World War I National Filling Factory, Banbury

Scheduled Date: 21 June 2012

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1409811

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Banbury

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Warkworth St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


Standing, buried and earthwork remains of Unit No.1 of the WWI National Filling Factory, Banbury.

Source: Historic England


The No.1 Unit

The site of the Filling Factory at Banbury (Unit no.1) survives as a series of well defined earthwork, standing and buried remains, and is currently used as rough grazing for cattle. The monument has been truncated by the M40 motorway, which has obliterated elements on the extreme western side of Unit no.1.

The No.1 Unit lies to the east of the motorway with approximately 75% of the site surviving as earthworks. This part of the site was arranged in an elongated rectangular plan which was subdivided into a number of small compartments, each of which housed a group of four melt houses and two filling sheds. In operation, cleaned shells were brought to the northern end of the group and explosives into the eastern side, the two were then brought together in the filling sheds at the centre of the group before the filled shells were moved eastwards to the storage magazines on the extreme east of the complex. The buildings in the factory were generally timber-framed and weather-boarded or covered in uralite (brown asbestos sheeting), set on brick foundations or concrete slabs. Larger buildings, generally stores with roof widths of no more than 12m, were spanned by Belfast trusses. To the east, the site is defined by the earthworks of a standard gauge railway line that served the picric acid stores, filled shell magazines, and to the north the exploder store.

The buildings used in the filling process (within the danger zone) were all surrounded by earthwork traverses the ends of which were revetted by double brick walls infilled with a concrete core. The earthwork traverses survive up to a height of around 4m, with the standing remains of the gable revetments surviving to a similar height. Linking the buildings are the earthwork remains of the factory's internal narrow gauge tramway. Where the line passed through earthwork traverses they are lined with brick and concrete portals. Numerous examples of the portals are visible around the site. It is clear from the height of these, particularly in the northern half of the site, that there is a build up of debris and the original ground level is possibly in places up to 2m below the current ground level. There is also documented evidence of rubbish dumping in the1920/30s at the extreme northern end of the site, which may help to explain this. Around the edge of the filling units are the earthwork remains of standard gauge sidings. Between the picric acid stores and the lines of the tramways are the well-preserved remains of Medieval ridge and furrow. More also survives to the west between the melt houses and the motorway.

South of the danger area were offices, changing rooms, mess rooms and lavatories which survive as less well defined earthworks; though concrete building platforms are visible in places and survive just beneath the turf cover in others. Aerial photographs indicate the location and survival of these platforms and help to illustrate the process flow of the industry and how this is manifest in the landscape. Traces of ridge and furrow are also evident in this area. Approximately half-way down and to the west of the complex was a boiler house, locomotive shed and oil store, but these buildings were removed for the construction of the M40 motorway, as were a number of store buildings which were located on the extreme west side of the main group.

The Army Ordnance Department storage magazines

In the field to the south-east of the factory are the earthwork remains of the storage magazines which were controlled by the Army Ordnance Department (AOD). These were a feature of most filling factories and were under military command; until the point at which the shells were ready for delivery to the army, all raw materials were controlled by the civilian Ministry of Munitions. Finished shells after inspection became the responsibility of the AOD. Although an important element in the landscape these structures are of a standard design and are not directly involved in the process of the filling factory and are therefore not included in the scheduling.

The No.2 Unit

The No. 2 Unit lies to the south of No.1 Unit and is bisected by the M40 motorway. Earthworks to the east of the M40 are similar in plan to those of the No.1 Unit but are not as clearly defined. The earthwork survival may be indicative of the modifications introduced during its construction to improve the process flow. The revetted earthwork traverses which are so characteristic of the northern, No.1 Unit are only clearly evident around the picric acid stores in the No.2 Unit. This may be due to a gradual degradation of the earthworks or disturbance during the construction of the M40 but equally may indicate that these were no longer considered necessary around the other process buildings. To the west of the M40 a filled shell magazine was recorded in April 2012, comprising of a revetted traverse, pierced by three tunnels or portals surrounding three sides of the earthwork remains of the magazine. This feature has subsequently been degraded by machine leaving only a raised rounded mound. Also evident in this section of the site are a series of low tramway embankments curving from the south towards north-west. These appear to terminate at a low, rectangular mound believed to be the remains of a locomotive shed. The remains of Unit No.2 are considered to be of National Importance but given that approximately 50% of the site has been obliterated by the M40 and that further remains of Unit No.2 are heavily degraded this area of the site is not included in the scheduling.


A detailed history of the factory complex is documented in the National Archives, Kew, this contains annotated plans and sections of the buildings. An unannotated plan of the factory may also be found on the 1922 Ordnance Survey map of the area.

Extent of Scheduling

The scheduling encompasses the buried, earthwork and standing remains of Unit No1 of the National Filling Factory, Banbury. From the north-eastern corner the line of designation follows the field boundary southwards to the east of the tramway earthworks and filled shell magazines. It continues south to include the picric acid stores and the 'domestic' buildings at the southern end of the site. A field boundary crosses the site south west to north east but the line of scheduling extends a further 50m south of this to capture the full extent of the domestic buildings. The line picks up a further field boundary and follows this northwards at the foot of the M40 embankment. Approximately 200m south of the northwest corner of the field the line crosses the field north of the remains of the melt houses. A 35m wide strip on the eastern side of the field retains well preserved remains of the tramway embankments and is included in the scheduling.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Unit No.1 of the National Filling Factory, Banbury, is of national importance and scheduling is recommended for the following principal reasons:

* National Importance: the diverse range of documentary sources provides a detailed profile of the physical remains of NFF Banbury and of the significant contribution it made to the British armed forces at a time of international conflict. Its contribution to the war effort and to the outcome of WWI make it a site of national and international significance.

* Rarity: All filling factories were reduced to footings when decommissioned and almost all sites were redeveloped. NFF Banbury is one of only two lyddite filling factories dating to WWI which retain evidence of the complete process flow of the industry.

* Archaeological Interest: 75% of the plan form of Unit No.1 survives as earthworks and has the archaeological potential to add significantly to our understanding of the construction, use and subsequent abandonment of the site.
* Diversity and Group Value: the diversity of the features and the inter-relationship of the different elements of the factory increase the group value of the site and enhances the national importance of the monument as a whole.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cocroft, W, Dangerous Energy The Archaeology of Gunpowder and Military Explosives Manufacture, (2000), 170-176
Lester, E, 'Banbury Guardian' in The vital role of our gas factory, (January 13th 1983)
History of No.9 NFF Banbury ,
Title: Ordnance Survey Map 25" Oxfordshire VI.9
Source Date: 1922

Source: Historic England

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