Aquila MoD Testing Facility, Bromley March 2004

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mr_bones

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VERY PICTURE HEAVY!

The Aquila site in Bromley was first occupied by the MoD in 1946. Operations were run by the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) and during this time it specialised in optics and audio research and testing. We came across the relatively low profile site via a former worker who was going to be our tourguide. He had contacted Simon Cornwell after stumbling across his website and organised permission for a small group to see the buildings shortly before demoliton.

It was a cold morning in March 2004, it was going to be the first time i had met Simon and didn't really have any concept of what we were about to explore - just that it was a large industrial building. We met at our tourguide (Dr. Bob's) house (Myself, JonDoe264 and Simon) and he sat us down in front of a map - it was at this point we realised the scale of the buildings.

A short drive led us to the complex, it was very formal as we had executive parking bays inside the front gate, and signed in at the gatehouse.

The first building we came to was single storey and very plain from the outside, posters on the wall gave us a clue that audio and acoustics testing was carried out here. Dr. Bob led us into a peculiar soundproofed room with foam spikes sticking out the walls and ceiling, it was an "Anechoic Chamber" which absorbs echoes and reverberations. It was the first of many that we were going to find at Aquila.

We carried on through the block we had entered, passing various rooms that resembled labs, and chemical testing areas. Oddly enough, the occasional room looked totally out of place. Fully re-furbished with shiny new fittings and a fresh coat of paint.



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We moved out into the sunshine, surrounded by utilitarian architecture. Single storey brick buildings with the occasional water tank or service room thrown on top.

The next area we ventured into welcomed us with a huge conference table and chairs - any small pieces of equipment at aquila had already been salvaged or scrapped, but larger pieces of furniture and equipment remained in situ. Rooms were connected by long, narrow and sloping corridors.



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As we made our way round, we saw more acoustic chambers and even a 'vibration chamber'. Despite imminent demolition, the power was still on at Aquila and despite the sunshine, an air conditioning unit reminded us of how cold it was!

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Back out in the open, we spotted a huge granite slab in the entrance to a building, Dr. Bob explained that this would have been a testing bed and the huge solid base ensured minimal vibration which was vital on high precision instrumentation.

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We reached a far corner of the site, a lone store room sat at the end of a carpark, there was everything from coffee machines to circuit testers in there. All waiting to be neatly compiled into landfill.

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The group proceeded to the next building. It felt a lot more damp and properly 'abandoned' than the others so far, but contained some interesting rooms - including a full X-Ray suite and some gigantic moveable Anechoic chambers, some totally stripped workshops and the boiler room.


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Our next building was the Bar, after a long day at work employees could get themselves a pint and play snooker on a full sized table. Unfortunately I doubt whether the snookerl table was rescued.

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Our final big surprise of the trip was the cinema. An immaculate and well equipped cinema at that! We headed for the projector room which had 2 projectors, a number of reels, splicing and winding equipment, bulbs and spares. I demonstrated how the curtains and wide screen operated!!

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Just time before we left to venture into the kitchens, discover an immaculate and ill fated suite and grab a sneaky picture of the cars!

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A month after visiting, the buildings had been erased from the landscape.

Hope you enjoyed. Mr. B
 

Foxylady

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Blimey, that was a helluva explore, Mr B. Great example of recording stuff before it's gone forever.
Cheers for posting. :) What took you so long? ;):lol:
 

mr_bones

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Thanks Havoc and Foxylady. What took me so long? I worked on 1 photo per month since March 2004! :p
 

sallybear

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Wow that was a biggun!! Great job on getting in there before it's gone. Some fascinating looking rooms, those acoustic chambers are mad!

Nice report :)
 

klempner69

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Excellant

I have just finished scrutinising each pic and loved every one...its soo like Pyestock in some of your externals without the pipes.To have captured it all right down to the bar and lush cinema like this is a wonderful slice of DERA history..well done and thanx for all you effort in putting it up here.:)
 

Speed

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Old skool!!

love the BTH's never realised they were there. Wonder what happened to them.
 

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