Barnton Quarry: Edinburgh nuclear bunker given Category-A listed building status by Historic Environment Scotland

A “rare historic survival” from the Cold War has been given Category-A listed building status by Historic Environment Scotland.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 5:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 6:11 pm

Originally built in 1940, and expanded in the 1950s, the facility at Barnton Quarry in Edinburgh is one of the largest subterranean military sites in the UK.

Historic Environment Scotland wrote in their listing report: “The R4 ROTOR bunker is an extremely rare example of an early Cold War ROTOR radar headquarters and is the only example where the original layout is visible.

"The buildings are a well-preserved physical reminder of two of the major global periods of conflict that helped define the 20th century (being World War II and the Cold War), and in both cases many of their contemporary related structures have been either heavily altered or demolished, further adding to the significance of these surviving examples.”

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The site at Barnton was expanded in 1951 with the construction of a three-level underground ROTOR R4 bunker.

Philp Robertson, Deputy Head of Designations at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said: “We are delighted to list the Cold War Rotor Radar System bunker in Barnton.

"This follows the nomination of the site by The Barnton Quarry Restoration Project, a community group involved in restoring the building as a unique piece of cold war history in the heart of Edinburgh.

Barnton Quarry: Iconic Edinburgh nuclear bunker given Category-A listed building status by Historic Environment Scotland

“Working with community groups and listening to their ambitions to protect and engage with their local historic environment is a priority for HES.

"Listing at Category A recognises the special architectural and historic interest of this building.

"As one of only four purpose-built radar system headquarters of its type in the UK, the Barnton building is a very rare survival from the Cold War.”

Barnton Quarry: Iconic Edinburgh nuclear bunker given Category-A listed building status by Historic Environment Scotland

In 2011, a small team of volunteers began the task of restoring the site to its original condition.

Grant More, Barnton Quarry Restoration Team added: “We are delighted to receive this award from Historic Environment Scotland, a fantastic acknowledgement of how unique the Barnton Quarry site is and a reminder of its national importance in terms of historical and architectural interest.

"Our team of dedicated volunteers has been working hard on behalf of the public for the past ten years to painstakingly restore the buildings.

"We’re deeply passionate about safeguarding our Cold War history and this award will help us to accelerate the realisation of our vision of opening the site at Barnton Quarry as a museum and education centre.”

The historic bunker in Barnton Quarry was constructed in the midst of fear of Soviet power – and remained a secret until the 1980s.

Situated deep underground in Corstorphine Hill, four miles from the Capital, it served as Sector Operations Centre for co-ordinating RAF fighter jets and protected Scotland from attack by Russian long-range nuclear bombers until around 1960.

It was used as a control centre where information was analysed, and became a base for a radar air defence system.

Later it was reconfigured to become a regional seat of government in the event of a nuclear attack, designed to accommodate 400 politicians and civil servants for up to 30 days.

But in the 1990s it fell victim to vandals who torched it and raided the interior for scrap metal.

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