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RAF Spadeadam: Component Test Area

A Scheduled Monument in Kingwater, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.0296 / 55°1'46"N

Longitude: -2.6086 / 2°36'31"W

OS Eastings: 361191.04653

OS Northings: 570729.972431

OS Grid: NY611707

Mapcode National: GBR BB78.1V

Mapcode Global: WH90L.WVZ4

Entry Name: RAF Spadeadam: Component Test Area

Scheduled Date: 10 October 2013

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1413096

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Kingwater

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Gilsland St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


Component Test Area, 1957-9.

Source: Historic England


The Component Test Area occupies a level site some 300m to the north-west of the British Oxygen Corporation compound. Building references in brackets cross refer to the English Heritage survey.

Control Room
The main control room (B1) is situated at the western end of the test area and is a large, single storey, reinforced concrete building with a flat roof supported on six concrete pillars. Originally it housed the central instrumentation and control, public address and warning systems and from here all operations in the component test area were overseen. Through its west, south and north walls there are armoured windows that were used to monitor the adjacent test cells. Internally there is a single large open space and the remains of control equipment survive on the west wall and in the north west corner.

On the north side of the control room is a free-standing double-height reinforced concrete structure (B1.4, 4 and 6) housing three ground floor and six first floor cells used for testing hazardous missile components running at very high internal pressures and often in combination with volatile fuel mixtures. A handrail attached to the inner west wall indicates the former position of a stair giving access to the upper cells. The ground floor cells have sloping floors to allow the runoff of unspent fuel, and a number of channels are set into the floor to which test frames were fixed. The cells were monitored from the control room through armoured windows that correspond with gaps in the south walls of the test cells.

Abutting the south wall of the control room is the pump test house (B1.1). This is visible as the lower parts of two brick built test cells – one for kerosene pump calibration and the other for testing liquid oxygen pumps. Currently open to the sky, the cells were originally covered by steel framework and reinforced concrete towers holding stainless steel kerosene and LOX tanks, the lower portions of which survive within the cells. The remains of cabling and fixing brackets are retained in both test cells, and in the western cell there is mounting formed from steel plate and an instrumentation panel. Directly to the south of these cells is the gas turbine house (B1.2), which originally housed a pair of Avon RA.7 turbojets to provide power to the test cells. This is a rectangular building with a flat roof and two circular openings above the former plant beds; various metal brackets and remains of metal cable channels survive on the exterior of the building. Also attached to the south wall of the control room is the reinforced concrete gaseous nitrogen test facility (B1.7) similar in construction and nature to the other test cells described, though in this case fitted with a concrete blast wall 0.46m thick.

Workshop and associated buildings
Adjoining the control room to the east is a steel-framed, brick-faced workshop (B1.3). It has a flat concrete roof and is entered either through the adjoining control room or from the east via an external concrete ramp. The east side is lit by four steel-framed windows, the north elevation by four eight-light windows and the south elevation has four 12-light windows. Internally, it is arranged on a grid of 6 by 4 bays with a row of steel columns down the centre and offices and stores along its north and south walls. Some fittings, including electrical fittings and ducting for the central heating system, remain attached to the ceiling. A self-contained switch room retains some racking and cable ducts and to its west is a plant room that projects into the workshop area and retains some fittings including an Airscrew fan. On the north side of the workshop is a small free-standing brick building with a flat concrete roof, thought to have functioned as a switch house.

Liquid Oxygen Storage Facility
This (B8) lies immediately to the south of the workshop and comprises a tank support visible as a thick circular brick wall 1.45m high, with an octagonal concrete pier at its centre. To the south of this are the remains of a horizontal tank support visible as a pair of concrete walls, and the concrete floor of a demolished building lies to the east.

Turbo-Pump Test Cells
These (B2) lie immediately to the west of the main control room and comprise three single storey, reinforced concrete test cells, which are virtually identical in design: open to the east and west with steel concertina doors. Their floors have six metal-lined channels for securing test equipment and slope to the east to facilitate the drainage of unspent fuel into the effluent system. The roofs above these test cells originally supported two steel framework towers located over square holes in the roof of each cell. At either end of the main building were further concrete cells. At the south is a single storey cell with an open side facing west and two cells in a two-storey configuration with open sides facing south. This arrangement was mirrored at the north end of the main building. These cells are thought to have contained pressurised fuel vessels and pumps, and were designed facing outwards away from the main structural body to limit damage in the event of an explosion. Immediately to the west of the building are remains of concrete cable channels.

Effluent system
During firing all unspent fuel and cooling water was directed into a network of conduits and ultimately into the main effluent channel that runs west to east along the north side of the site and onto the Effluent Treatment Plant at the eastern end of the area. Here, contaminated water initially passed into a large, open concrete lagoon or settling tank (B6), divided into two by a central wall and with four metal sluice gates at its northern end. From here contaminated water then passed into the pump house and effluent treatment plant (B6.1). The latter is a two-phase, single storey brick structure with a flat concrete roof. The earlier structure lies to the south-east and at the southern end of the eastern elevation there is a small brick out-shot building. The original building was enlarged to the north by a taller extension which overlies the roof of the earlier structure. Machine bases are visible within the pump house. To the south-east, and connected to it by heavy gauge lagged pipes, are the process water and firewater storage tanks (B6.3). These comprise a rectangular concrete tank divided in two. At the centre of each tank is a column supporting a cruciform arrangement of roof supports; the eastern half of the tank retains most of its original cover, the western portion is now entirely open.

Extent of scheduling
To the north of the control room (B1 and B1.3) the scheduling is defined by the northern road kerb. To the east, from the gate through the modern steel post and wire mesh fence the boundary follows the fence line to the south enclosing the features associated with the control room and the attached gas turbine house (B1.2). To the west the fence continues around the turbo-pump test cells (B2). From the north-west corner of this compound the boundary follows the edge of the compound’s concrete slab hardstanding and then turns north-eastwards along the outer (northern) edge of the concrete conduit that carried the effluent from the test cells. The scheduling includes any projecting conduit supports. This boundary continues to the east to the settling tank (B6), around the associated pump house and effluent treatment plant (B6.1), and the process water and firewater storage tanks (B6.3), and back along their southern sides. The scheduling then follows the southern side of the conduit turning at its west end to join the southern kerb edge to complete the boundary.

Any surviving original concrete road surfaces associated with the Spadeadam Cold War rocket establishment are included in the scheduling however, the upper, later surfaces of all tracks, all fences and fence posts, signage and lamp-posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The 1957-9 Component Test Area is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: it illustrates one aspect of the testing procedure as an essential and integral part of a unique, single phase British Cold War rocket establishment believed to be the sole survivor of its type in the western world;
* Survival: significant standing, earthwork and buried remains survive at this site, with some inevitable losses to the upper parts of some structures;
* Potential: the earthworks, buried features and standing remains will enhance our detailed understanding of the construction, function and use of this component of a unique site type in Britain, as well as serving as a tangible and evocative symbol of Britain’s aspirations to superpower status;
* Historic interest: the test area has the potential to enhance significantly our understanding of the development and operation of Britain’s Cold War independent nuclear deterrent, and the subsequent utility of the technology in the development of international space exploration;
* Group value: as part of a single phase, grand scheme site conceived for a single rocket programme, the relationship of each site to the others and the wider landscape adds group value and enhances the national importance of the whole;
* Period: the peril from the threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction, which characterised the Cold War period is inherent in the remains of the Spadeadam rocket facility in the most tangible and evocative fashion.

Source: Historic England


Tuck, C & Cocroft W D, Spadeadam Rocket Establishment, Cumbria, 2004,

Source: Historic England

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