Taverham Cold War bunker given listed status

Noel Barrett at the entrance to the the Cold War bunker he built at his home at Taverham in 1982, wh

Noel Barrett at the entrance to the the Cold War bunker he built at his home at Taverham in 1982, which has now been listed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

It was intended to withstand the blast of a Soviet nuclear attack.

Noel Barrett in the Cold War bunker he built at his home at Taverham in 1982, which has now been lis

Noel Barrett in the Cold War bunker he built at his home at Taverham in 1982, which has now been listed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Now, a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, a bunker dug 6ft beneath a Taverham back garden has been given listed status.

The structure, which has just been given a grade II listing, was built in the early 1980s by Noel Barrett, who still lives at the property – though above ground in a rather more orthodox house.

He worked as a driver at RAF Sculthorpe at the time, a role which gave him heightened concerns about the possibility of a nuclear war.

He said he did not build it out of fear, but was simply following government advice, and enjoyed the project. The bunker, built from bricks, concrete and polythene, is covered by about 8ft of soil, is about 30ft long and 9ft wide.

The structure is fitted with a spa bath, gym equipment, an electricity generator and kitchen sink.

While it has remained thankfully untested as a nuclear bunker, it has faced numerous other challenges over the years.

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From an initial attempt by the council to block it being built, to a recent encounter with two tonnes of fallen oak tree branches, Mr Barrett's building has stood strong.

'I am actually really proud of the listing,' said the 76-year-old, who previously ran a fish and chip shop in Hellesdon. 'It's an achievement that not many people acquire through their own initiative. Grade II listing means that it will remain as a sort of monument. It's not on a par with Stonehenge, but it can't just be pulled down without consent.'

Heritage minister Tracey Crouch said: 'This unique building is a clear reminder of the fear and anxiety that was present throughout the country during the Cold War. Though never used, it's a part of history that should be conserved for generations to come and this grade II listing will help do that.'

Tony Calladine, from Historic England, said: 'This is a rare example of a private nuclear shelter as very few are known to survive.

'It vividly illustrates public anxiety during a period of heightened tension towards the end of the Cold War and therefore fully merits being grade II listed.'

• Soviet threat

Ministry of Defence papers from 1967 show that Soviet nuclear missiles aimed at East Anglia would have wiped out the region.

RAF and USAF bases at Coltishall, Neatishead, West Raynham, Sculthorpe, Lakenheath and Mildenhall became targets for a threatened Soviet assault.

The government estimated that 80pc of the population would have died.

A single one-megaton bomb falling on Coltishall would have vaporised everything within a five-mile radius, started fires in Norwich and created a deadly 50-mile smoke plume.

Heat from the blast would have been enough to boil the sea and turn beaches to glass.

• Have you built an unusual structure? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk