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Regional Seat of Government

A Grade II Listed Building in Trumpington, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.1877 / 52°11'15"N

Longitude: 0.1277 / 0°7'39"E

OS Eastings: 545546

OS Northings: 256520

OS Grid: TL455565

Mapcode National: GBR L7H.WMK

Mapcode Global: VHHK9.58CQ

Entry Name: Regional Seat of Government

Listing Date: 18 July 2003

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1390525

English Heritage Legacy ID: 490444

Location: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2

County: Cambridgeshire

District: Cambridge

Town: Cambridge

Electoral Ward/Division: Trumpington

Built-Up Area: Cambridge

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Cambridge St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Ely

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Listing Text

667/21/10127 Regional Seat of Government

War Room with Regional Seat of Government. Early 1950s with Regional Seat of Government added to it in early 1960s. Reinforced concrete construction. Two-storey surface structure, the smaller War Room being planned with a central map room surrounded by control cabins, offices and plant room and attached on its SE elevation to the much larger Regional Seat of Government whose interior is subdivided into plant rooms and offices on the ground floor and dormitories above. Plain elevational treatment to the War Room, which has projecting parapet to flat roof and entrance with steel doors to NE corner. The exterior to the Regional Seat of Government presents a definably Brutalist appearance, unpunctuated by openings and relieved only by formed concrete hoods to the external duct openings. These include four openings for air intakes to the plant rooms. Raised exhaust vents on roof. The elevations also have washed gravel alternating with plain panels, the latter being subtly decorated through the use of shuttering boards. All the rain water pipes are protected by curved stainless steel shields. Main entrance with steel doors in SW elevation.
INTERIOR OF WAR ROOM: map room has inserted suspended floor, and is viewed from the control cabins by perspex screens - during its last phase of use two were occupied by the Deputy Regional Commissioner and Deputy Principal Officer. Original air filtration plant installed in 1953 includes The Cyclone Fan supplied by Matthews and Yates Manchester Cyclone Works, Swinton, and two alternating current 'Cylent' electric motors. Air conditioning was by means of galvanised metal ducting fixed to the ceilings. Wooden doors with bakelite fittings, where original. Concrete stairs.
INTERIOR OF REGIONAL SEAT OF GOVERNMENT: Concrete stairs. Wooden doors to all rooms. Most plant replaced 1988. The kitchen has a tea bar with boiler resited from the 1950s War Room.

HISTORY: With the Regional Seat of Government at Chalfont Drive, Nottingham, this is one of only two purpose-built Regional Seats of Government built during the early 1960s: more than Nottingham, it clearly expresses its grim function through its Brutalist architectural treatment. It is thus a unique example in Britain of a structure designed to operate in a post-nuclear attack environment where strong architectural consideration has been given to the outward appearance. An integral part of this structure is the earlier 1950s War Room. This juxtaposition symbolises the change of government planning from a relatively small regional centre to counter the devastation caused by an Atomic bomb, to a far larger structure needed to house staff who were to control the region after the country had been attacked with Hydrogen bombs. These structures were designed to counter the effects of nuclear weapons and represented a new type of architecture in Britain. Their form, with a central operations room surrounded by control cabins, supported by communications rooms, air conditioning plant and emergency generators, was designed for this one purpose.

During much of the 20th century the possibility of the breakdown of central government control was a constant concern, prompted first by revolutions on the continent, later by industrial strikes at home and finally the spectre of total war through air attack. To counter these threats, the country was divided from the 1920s into 12 Home Defence Regions, each to be controlled by a Regional Commissioner in case of emergency. Initially these regions were to be run from existing government offices, or improvised shelters in basements. However, in the early 1950s, each of the 12 Regional Commissioners was provided with a War Room, in an attempt to protect them and their staff (of around 50), from an attack on the country with atomic bombs.

In the late 1950s, with the greater threat posed by the Soviet H-bomb, the earlier system of emergency central government was restructured. In place of the smaller War Rooms, the Commissioners in each Region (London was now deleted) were supplied with a Regional Seat of Government for around 200 staff. Although they all vary, all were provided with thick external walls to resist blast, heat and radiation penetration. They were all equipped with air filtration plant, standby generators, canteens, dormitories, operations rooms, communications facilities and support areas. Their larger size is significant as it was envisaged that the regions would need to remain autonomous for a longer period due to the far greater devastation posed by the H-bomb. The designers recognised that no structure could withstand the full effects of an H-bomb and were primarily concerned instead to protect the staff against the effects of fallout. Nine RSGs were constructed in England: of these, Cambridge and Nottingham were the only purpose-built examples.

Adrian Mitchell, the Liverpool beat poet, wrote a poem entitled On the Beach at Cambridge based around the Brooklands bunker in 1981.

(English Heritage Survey Report, Regional Seat of Government, Cambridge, 1997)

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