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Building 80, former RAF Barnham atomic bomb store

A Grade II Listed Building in Barnham, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.3845 / 52°23'4"N

Longitude: 0.7189 / 0°43'8"E

OS Eastings: 585135

OS Northings: 279758

OS Grid: TL851797

Mapcode National: GBR QC8.GL2

Mapcode Global: VHKCK.DBXB

Entry Name: Building 80, former RAF Barnham atomic bomb store

Listing Date: 24 June 2011

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1402348

Location: Barnham, St. Edmundsbury, Suffolk, IP24

County: Suffolk

District: St. Edmundsbury

Civil Parish: Barnham

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Barnham St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich

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Building 80 is a SECO hut. This was a temporary, pre-fabricated building designed and produced by the Selection Engineering Company Ltd, founded in 1940 to build huts and dwellings for the armed forces.


Building 80 is the former duty officer hut at RAF Barnham.

Building 80 is constructed from a resin-bonded plywood frame, assembled on a grid pattern of 4' by 3'6'' and clad in flat asbestos cemented sheeting to both sides of the frame with a slightly pitched, timber framed roof.


The windows are standard steel single, double and tri-partite casements. At the east end is a double door, and to the west a corridor link to building 67.

The structure remains intact internally with no introduced partitioning.


In the early 1950s, the Air Ministry had a continuing need for high explosive bombs and storage facilities for them, in anticipation of a future war in which atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons would be used by both sides. It is within this historic context that the Special Storage Unit at RAF Barnham was constructed following the issuing of Blue Danube, Britain's first nuclear bomb, to the RAF in November 1953. The bombs were held in clutches in V bomber airfields such as RAF Scampton and RAF Wittering and the purpose of the store at RAF Barnham, and the almost identical site at RAFFaldingwoth in Lincolnshire, was to provide maintenance and refurbishment to support the airfields and hold spare warheads.

The Air Ministry plan for the Store is dated May 1953, although planning for the facility almost certainly had started before this, and it was fully operational by July 1954. In the first phase of works, the fences, earthworks, fissile core storage hutches, inspection buildings and gantries were built by August 1955. The small arms and pyrotechnics store, barrack accommodation, gymnasium, telephone exchange, meat preparation store and dog compound were erected shortly after to strengthen security. By mid 1955 the double fence was in place, later augmented by the current observation towers erected in early 1959 replacing smaller structures. The Special Storage Unit remained the main holding place for the Mark 1 atomic bomb, under control of Bomber Command until November 1956 when an independent Unit (95 Commanding Maintenance Unit) was formed. During the operational life of the site, second and third generation British nuclear weapons such as Red Beard and Yellow Sun were introduced on the site. By 1962, the site was in decline and the maintenance unit ceased to exist on 31 July 1963. The closure of the station is probably linked to the operational deployment of Blue Steel from late 1962.

The site was sold to the current owners in 1966 and let out for light industrial use. Some of the buildings have been altered and most significantly, one of the non nuclear stores burnt down in the 1980s, but there has been an on-going maintenance and repair programme agreed with English Heritage resulting in the preservation of the site.

Building 80 is a SECO hut. This was a temporary, pre-fabricated building designed and produced by the Selection Engineering Company Ltd, founded in 1940 to build huts and dwellings for the armed forces. The development and use of pre-fabricated buildings in the early C20 sprang from the loss of housing during the World Wars and a weakened economy. Coupled with the advances in material and manufacturing technology, the use of pre-fabricated structures met both housing and military needs. At least 30,000 SECO pre-fabricated buildings were manufactured, but it is uncertain how many were in military use and, to date, it has not been possible to provide a firm estimate of the number remaining. However, it seems most likely that those which do survive typically have been subject to alteration, with substantially intact examples increasingly rare. This is represented at RAF Barnham, where most of the SECO buildings have been partially or entirely rebuilt. Only two substantially intact examples remain, Buildings 78 and 80.

Reasons for Listing

Building 80 at RAF Barnham, a SECO building erected in 1954-5, is listed Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* INTACTNESS: Building 80 is largely intact.
* HISTORIC ASSOCIATION: direct associations with the early development of innovative nationally and internationally significant nuclear weapon technology, and Britains first nuclear bomb.
* RARITY: Intact SECO Buildings are increasingly rare. RAF Barnham is a unique military establishment.
* GROUP VALUE: Building 80 has strong group value with the other listed buildings at Barnham and with the scheduled monument.

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