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Former Air Raid Precautions Report Centre, Roseburn Park, Edinburgh

A Category B Listed Building in Corstorphine/Murrayfield, Edinburgh

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9452 / 55°56'42"N

Longitude: -3.2404 / 3°14'25"W

OS Eastings: 322630

OS Northings: 673152

OS Grid: NT226731

Mapcode National: GBR 8CJ.49

Mapcode Global: WH6SL.6T7R

Entry Name: Former Air Raid Precautions Report Centre, Roseburn Park, Edinburgh

Listing Date: 18 April 2019

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407068

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52496

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Corstorphine/Murrayfield

Traditional County: Midlothian

Description

The building is a former Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Report Centre used during the Second World War for civil defence operations. Built around 1940-41, it is a single storey brick structure with a concrete roof. The building was built by James Miller and Sons and is of a simple design, prioritising function over form, with very few visible features on the exterior other than the doors and the windows, now covered up. There are more visible original features in the interior of the structure. These include the concrete mounting block for a generator or similar electrical equipment in one of the central rooms, the original doors including the hatched door to the former Message Room, electrical conduits and junction boxes and the four pane clerestory windows with timber frames and central hopper, which remain in place although covered on the exterior. The Report Centre was painted in 2011, including a graffiti mural on the north wall of the building, with the remaining exterior painted dark green.

Statement of Interest

The former Air Raid Precautions Report Centre in Roseburn Park is an extremely rare surviving example of a Second World War civil defence building. Constructed in 1940-41 for the use of the ARP service, it served an important role in civil defence on the home front, and was also the setting for a wartime propaganda film on the work of the ARP service. The building survives in a relatively unaltered state and is one of a small number of surviving civil defence structures within Scotland when compared to the number that existed during the conflict itself. It is a tangible reminder of the significant impact of the Second World War on the home front, and the dangers faced by the civilian population from enemy bombing raids, as evident from the bombing of Edinburgh on a number of occasions in 1940-41.

2.1 Age and Rarity

The Roseburn Park ARP Report Centre (later known as Civil Defence Control Centres) is a rare example of its building type, built during the Second World War for the purposes of civil defence. It is the only currently known surviving purpose built ARP Report Centre within Scotland, although a school in Wick is known to have been converted for the same purpose. It is also one of very few surviving within Britain. Due to the legal requirement placed on local authorities during the war, civil defence buildings and structures would have been very common at the time, however subsequent clearance and demolition mean they are now comparatively rare. Buildings of this type were constructed according to a relatively standard design, although minor variations were common, based upon the specific location of the building, availability of materials etc. This type of variation can been seen on the Grade II listed example at Gosport in England (Historic England List Entry Number: 1393943), where the building is of similar size and style to the Roseburn example, but is partially subterranean for additional protection against bombing.

The necessity of civil defence, for the purpose of protecting the civilian population, had been realised following German bombing raids during the First World War, and was brought into harsh relief by the 1937 bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Following the passing of the Air Raid Precautions Act in 1938 and the Civil Defence Act in 1939, local authorities were required to establish air raid precaution schemes for their areas. This included the creation of communal and domestic shelters, installation of warning systems, distribution of gasmasks and other equipment and for the organisation and running of an ARP Warden service.

The Wardens were responsible for a wide range of civil defence duties, including enforcing the blackout, first aid and rescue during and after air raids, monitoring for damage from air raids such as fires and road blockages and the operation of early warning systems such as sirens. In undertaking their duties, the ARP service would have been a very visible presence to the civilian population, and would have been one of the aspects of the conflict that they came into contact with most frequently. Wardens would be distributed around the area on patrol and at small warden posts, with the network reporting via telephone or messenger to a central command and control hub, and the Roseburn Park building is one of these hubs. The Warden staff at the centre would use the information received to relay information and resources wherever they were required around the area. Both men and women were accepted into the Wardens, although certain roles were restricted to male wardens only, and ages could range from teenagers to individuals in their seventies or eighties.

2.2 Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

The interior retains a number of original features, which can be seen and identified on a drama/documentary film on the ARP, created around 1942, including the hatched door, labelled on the film as leading to the "Message Room & Ladies Dormitory". There is also a surviving concrete mounting block with metal bolts for a generator or substation and a number of other parts of the electrical and communications systems in some of the rooms, along with evidence for other supporting facilities such as toilets.

Plan form

The plan form of the building reflects its function, with a main central corridor running roughly north-south along the building and a series of rooms branching off from this corridor on both sides. This has given the building an irregular overall plan form, as the operational layout dictated the design of the structure.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The Roseburn Park ARP Report Centre is of a simple design, prioritising function over form and as such, it does not have any particular interest for technological excellence, material or design quality.

Setting

The setting of the building has not drastically altered since it was constructed. The building sits within Roseburn Public Park on the west side of Edinburgh. The Water of Leith passes the just to the north of the building, and it stands adjacent to the junction of three paths within the park, one each coming from the west and east alongside the water of Leith and the third tree lined path connecting from the south. Roseburn Park lies within a primarily residential area, and houses and apartment blocks surround the park on all sides. To the south of the Report Centre is Murrayfield Stadium, which is the dominant building in the area. The main features of the setting, including the stadium, housing, path network and the Water of Leith are all present on the 1932 Ordnance Survey mapping of the area. Although the stadium and some areas of the surrounding residential areas have been redeveloped and modernised since the Report Centre was built, the setting still retains the broad character it had in the 1930s and 1940s.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

2.3 Close Historical Associations

The Roseburn Park ARP Report Centre was constructed and used as part of the Second World War, the single largest and deadliest conflict in human history. The Second World War is one of the defining historical events of the modern era, with lasting and substantial social, economic and political impacts around the world. During the war, the ARP service would have been one of the most visible indicators of the ongoing conflict to the local population of an area. As an example of a civil defence building, the ARP Report Centre is a visible and tangible reminder of the direct impact that the conflict had on civilian populations in Edinburgh, Scotland and further afield. This included aerial bombing of parts of Edinburgh, including Leith, Granton and Abbeyhill, on a number of occasions in 1940-41, with substantial loss of life and persons injured.

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