Thorp Arch Royal Ordnance Filling Factory Number 8 – (Picture Heavy)

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TK421

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Hi all.

Situated near the North Yorkshire village of Boston Spa, lies the Thorp Arch trading estate. However a simple drive through this estate reveals that it once had a most secretive past, that of the 8th in a line 16 of filling factories for the Royal Ordnance Corps, hastily built during WW11.

I have had my eye on this place for a while, and indeed there have been a few good reports on the site over the years, it was time to see it for myself. Apologies for the volume of pictures, but as you will see, there are a lot of interesting features.

History:

It was constructed for the Ministry of Supply, with the Ministry of Works acting as agents. Thorpe Arch ROFF opened in March 1940 was built over a 450 acre site. It took 18 months to build and cost £5.9 million. Thorp Arch was considered to be an ideal site, away from the large centres of population, good water supply, rail links and the proximity of the A1 trunk road. Workers were brought in from Leeds, Selby, York and all surrounding areas, 10,000 people, mainly women were employed there at the height of production and it is believed to have had 619 buildings at its height. The North Eastern side of the site covers an old Roman Road, which I intened to return to find at some point.
The factory produced munitions for both the Army and the RAF. It was divided into a number of different filling groups which occupied different areas of the site. Each ROF tended to be self-contained, apart from its raw materials with their own coal-fired power stations, for generating steam for heating and process use, and electricity via high-pressure steam turbines if needed; engineering workshops; plumbers and chemical plumbers; leather workers; electricians; buildings and works departments; housing and hostels for workers; canteens; laundries and medical centres, so a real self contained community. A key feature of ROF's was that of the explosives safeguarding zone around the permiter of the factory; as well as separation, or reduced separation and traverses, between buildings to limit the devastation of an explosion. Many of the buildings are still fitted today with lightening conductors, as this is the last type of place you would want any sort of lightening strike tomfoolery!
In World War II it produced light gun ammunition, medium gun ammunition, heavy ammunition, mines and trench mortar ammunition for the Army; medium and large bombs for the RAF; and
20 mm and other small arms ammunition for all three services.
ROF Thorpe Arch closed twice; once after World War II and then finally after the Korean War in April 1958.
Once production had halted, the site was gradually de-contaminated. In the early 1960s George Moore a local businessman bought most of the site and the development of the area as a trading estate began. The estate was later owned by Thorp Arch Limited Partnership, but is now known as Thorp Arch Estate, and is owned by the trustees of Hanover Property Unit Trust. It comprises an area of over 100 businesses, including the Thorp Arch Retail Park. The most notable additon's to the estate is the Northern Reading Room, Northern Listening Service and Document Supply Centre of the British Library, occupying what was the locomotive shed and engineering department areas, now long gone, and also another part is a prison, originally HMP Thorp Arch, now HMP Wealstun.

In preparation for my explore I wanted to get a feel for the place, and by using both Google maps, and an original map I found whilst surfing I spent a few hours drawing the layout, it's not to scale and I have spotted a few errors, but it was really handy for visiting the bits that looked interesting. The red lines indicate the original internal rail systems, it was great to see bits of track here and there dotted around the site.

My sketch of the site:

img554.jpg


Original ariel photograph. Of interest, at the left of the photo is the main railway line, (Tadcaster – Wetherby), with sidings into the factory, top of the photo is the engineering section and locomotive sheds, now the site of the British Library, in the centre is the main magazines and storage warehouses, which formed the bulk of my explore, slightly left off centre are 2 large dark rectangles, which were the factory's reserviours, they are still there, now under control of Yorkshire Water, finally, in the bottom right of the photo is the river Wharfe, and I believe the dark line heading towards the factory is the site of the Roman Road:

ArielPhotograph.jpg


So, with the history lesson over, lets have a look at some of the remaining relics from my explore today:

Magazine number 20, with rail lines still in evidence:

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Door to one of the huts, possible a canteen:

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Loading bay and railway lines inside one of the warehouses:

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Warehouse interior shots:

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Some great light in these places:

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More loading bay goodness:

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Next warehouse:

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Electric supply & DB:

DSC_0221.jpg


Light fitting:
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Nature takes over:

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Original door, seen better days:

DSC_0231-1.jpg


OK, its a hook, but look at the effort someone went to, chamfered corners the lot!

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Inside one of the many blast bunkers dotted round the site:

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Door to bunker with original signwriting:

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Original loading platform and track still in situ:

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Loads of these little tunnels dotted around the site:

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Love this, it's a pipe holder for the many water and steam fed pipes that would have been the lifeblood of the site, the banding round it makes it look a bit S&M!

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And here is one of the original control wheels for the system:

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Orginal light fitting dumped in a pile of rubbish, that looked rather interesting!

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Inside one of the only remaining huts that is acutally disused, nearly all of the others have found industrial use:

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Magazine number M1:

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Magazine number M3:

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Box:

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Air pipes from a blast bunker:

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Rear of one of the workshops, complete with notice about the Explosives act:

DSC_0313-1.jpg


Final one from me, more tunnels and workshops in the disused section:

DSC_0312-1.jpg


Hope you enjoyed the tour, I fully intend to revist to see what remains of the external railway system that surrounded the site, and the Roman road may be worth a look too.

Cheers
 

smileysal

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Excellent, I didn't realise all this was still there. I knew about the ROF being there, and a shopping outlet place there, but didn't realise so much was left. Excellent pics mate, I do like this. i'll have to get Mendo to take a trip up there with me soon. :)

Cheers,

:) Sal
 

shakey

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Thorp Arch is a facinating place!
This may seem rather insignifcant, but it is the only place that has a full circle railway network. Its about 3 1/2 miles longs. and apparently it doesn't exsist according to the military records!!! so you couldn't of been there ;) ;) :p

Shakey
 

Dirus_Strictus

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apparently it doesn't exsist according to the military records!!!

As the MoS and ROF sites are not technically military sites this is not really surprising, plenty of details via MoS and ROF records - but this excellent report really gives a perfect overview.
 

shakey

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this place even had its own railway system, and due to its size, there were 3 stations, each serving different wings of the factory. it had 3 (I think) private locomotives, Andrew Barclay (I think) I will do a bit of research to back those up.
 

sheep21

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top report with a really good background to the site. Photography is interesting & I must say I love the map you drew out, that kinda thing just does it for me =)
 

TK421

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Hi everyone, thanks very much for all the kind comments, really glad you liked my report. The circular railway is correct, and can be quite clearly seen on the B&W ariel photo, equally the system will have had both standard and narrow gauge, clearly the standard gauge went deep into the site, as these were the rails in my photos at the loading bays, although I could find no trace of the narrow gauge rails, which was a shame.

In terms of platforms, if you look at my rudimentary drawing you can make out the three platforms, (left 'Walton platform, top 'Roman platform and right 'Ranges platform), however when I drew it on A3, I realised my scanner is only just A3 - Doh! Some bits missing, oh well, you get the idea :mrgreen:

I will definately be going back, as I got home and realised I had totally missed 2 further potential buildings in the trees!

Cheers all
 

shakey

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I will definately be going back, as I got home and realised I had totally missed 2 further potential buildings in the trees!

If I lived up north I would definatley want to go there. as recently there was an article about it in a model railway magazine recently
 

woody65

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i used to have a unit on this site, the water was pulled from miles away and not the local river as you would expect at the time it was in use,looking at this has reminded me of a site a few miles away which i will check out tomorrow

cheers
 

Dirus_Strictus

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i used to have a unit on this site, the water was pulled from miles away and not the local river as you would expect at the time it was in use,

Not sure about the 1940's and 50's, but I believe that from the 1970's there has been strict regulation on water extraction from certain reaches of the River Wharfe.
 

woody65

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Not sure about the 1940's and 50's, but I believe that from the 1970's there has been strict regulation on water extraction from certain reaches of the River Wharfe.

i nearly bought a ex yorkshire water pumping station near york last year and it was built by the ministry of war in the 1940s it pumped water to thorp arch,still have a copy of the deeds somewhere

cheers
 

Dirus_Strictus

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i nearly bought a ex yorkshire water pumping station near york last year and it was built by the ministry of war in the 1940s it pumped water to thorp arch,still have a copy of the deeds somewhere

cheers

Thanks for that bit of interesting info. There is a pump house and underground reservoir, situated not 1/3 of a mile from my house on the heights of Rawdon Billing, that has just been put on the market. This was built in the late 30's/early 40's to feed the AVRO 'shadow' factory at Yeadon Airport. Many people now mistake the underground conrete tank for a bunker - the now white painted 'goose neck' air vents telling to true purpose to the people in the know! For years the camouflage on the above ground assembly halls of the factory was still visible, this was removed when the structure was re-clad when it became a goods hub and bonded warehouse for Leeds-Bradford Airport.
 
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