Christopher Pendrich

Architecture and miscellany

Copyright 2013

Built with Indexhibit

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Laboratory One was built to test the safety of the casings and triggers of
atomic weapons against the effects of vibration and dropping. The testing area
consists of two cells to enable this.

Weapons casings were moved into the laboratory via cranes. They were then
lowered into a pit spanning the two cells. The pit is designed to replicate the
size and shape of an aircraft bomb bay.

In the eastern cell, the bomb casing would be connected to two mechanical
vibration machines designed to simulate vibration of in-flight turbulence. In
the western cell, a 10 tonne crane would hoist the casing into the air, then
drop it onto the pit floor. This test simulated an accidental drop from aircraft
on the ground or the back of a truck when the bomb was in transit.

The testing area, when working, was an enclosed environment fitted with
airlock doors. Varying levels of heat, cold and humidity were simulated
through boilers and two large air-conditioning units housed to the west of the

The laboratory was constructed to limit the blast of an accidental explosion
during tests.

The concrete raft foundation on which the superstructure sits, is 675mm thick
and supported by 100 piles driven 15m through the shingle to the level of the
water table. The walls of the main laboratory are of similar thickness and are
substantially reinforced with mild steel within to withstand the forces exerted
during tests. Further protective layers of brick and shingle abutments increase
the capacity to withstand the lateral forces of both testing and accidental

The roof consists of a series of mild steel portal frames constructed from steel
angles, bolted together to form trusses. They were previously clad in
corrugated aluminium panels that were coated in asphalt. The roof was
designed to be light enough to blow-off in the event of an accidental
explosion. Fragments of this external skin remain.

In addition to the main laboratory building, there are workshops, stores, a
plant room and a heating boiler house.