This is one of a short series of blog posts describing visits during Open House weekend in London, September 2012. You can find out more about Open House on their web site.
Some events are turn up on the day and queue, but many are ticketed (although still free) and must be booked in advance. Paddock Bunker in Dollis Hill, north London is one of those.
Paddock, the Alternative Cabinet War Room, was built in 1939 to provide a backup command centre for the government during the Second World War. However it only hosted two Cabinet meetings, the first chaired by Churchill in 1940, and the second by Clement Atlee in 1941.
Although Churchill had been keen to establish a base outside central London in case the primary Cabinet War Room sustained heavy damage, after the first meeting he felt it unsuitable for long term use. He missed the second meeting due to illness. The facility was abandoned before the end of the war.
The bunker has remained largely intact and untouched since then, although it did suffer some flood damage some years ago, and is now owned by a housing association. It is open to the public during Open House weekend, with guided tours from Subterranea Britannica volunteers, who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Hard hats (provided on arrival) must be worn by all visitors because there are a few low doorways and other obstacles. The facility is now also quite wet, with standing water in places, so sensible footwear is a must.
This is a fascinating tour, is altogether different to many other Open House tours, and is highly recommended. You can see a few photos from the tour here.
You can learn more about Paddock on the Subterranea Britannica web site.