Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker, Nantwich, Cheshire, UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker, Nantwich, Cheshire, UK

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Two men in protective clothing overshadowed by a nuclear sign

The Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker is no longer a secret. After decades hidden down narrow country lanes in the Cheshire farmland of northern England, this unassuming, ugly, concrete building has become a declassified, decommissioned1 winner of a 1999 Tourism Award. Its existence is now proclaimed on signposts from all nearby major roads: 'Secret Bunker this way!'

A Disturbing Tourist Attraction

A visit to the bunker is disturbing at many levels:

  • The consequences of a nuclear war are graphically displayed on posters and on film.

  • The mundane office is set up, ready and waiting, for its post-nuclear attack regional government staff.

  • Wipe clean office wall charts calmly display the status of local roads: 'closed by debris', 'contaminated', 'closed for refugees'. . .

  • Background tapes advising survivors what to do with the bodies of any dead neighbours in the same tone they'd use to give advice on garden waste.

  • The existence of a brightly coloured café and souvenir shop now attached to all this.

Hack Green's involvement in modern warfare defence began in 1941, when the area was a decoy for World War II (WWII) raids on the large railway junction about ten miles away at Crewe. From 1941 to 1949 it was a WWII radar station. In the 1950s it became part of a secret radar network codenamed Rotor, closing in 1958. It then became an Air Traffic Radar Unit. RAF Hack Green closed in 1966 but the site was retained by the government. After a decade in mothballs, five years' construction work and more than £32 million, it was turned into a blast-proof nuclear bunker capable of housing a 135-man post-nuclear attack regional government team for 12 weeks. Becoming operational as a Regional Government Head Quarters 2 in 1984, it was one of many such bunkers built or converted across Britain as a part of the Government's emergency planning.

Hack Green seems fairly typical of these bunkers although converted Rotor bunkers on the east side of England tend to be disguised as large bungalows. Clues to their true use being the unusually (for Britain) wide veranda and the security fencing. Along with many of these bunkers, Hack Green was decommissioned and declassified in 1993.

Bunker Tour (as taken in 2001)

From the outside the bunker looks like a rundown, single storey, flat roofed, industrial storage unit. About 45m long by 25m wide, it is built of reinforced concrete which is beginning to disintegrate in places. There are another two stories below ground, giving approximately 3,250 square metres of floor space.

Above Ground

The entrance through the blast doors leads to an exhibition area, formerly a male dormitory, containing 20th Century wartime miscellanea, including a Russian army jeep. A TV set plays 1950s government public information broadcasts. With appropriate seriousness, in black and white and BBC English, the TV announcer advises that when you see the 'bright white flash' you should move away from all windows, to avoid flying glass, meanwhile the picture shows a man diving behind his settee. You should then proceed to your 'fall-out room', he says. The picture shows a small family group sitting sedately on their settee in their living room.

Having learned to survive nuclear fall-out 1950s-style, proceed through the turnstile and café, formerly the bunker canteen, and follow the red tour arrows. These take you past a cabinet full of mementos from Hack Green's radar station days and down a corridor lined with posters from the 1970s and 1980s. These depict the state of the Cold War, the countries known or suspected of having nuclear capability, the consequences of a nuclear blast, of radiation, and the scenarios for a possible nuclear attack.

At the end of the corridor on the right is the reception office, complete with signing-in book, for the original entrance. On the left is the decontamination room. This contains decontamination suits, a shower, water testing kits and Geiger counter (for measuring radiation levels).

Underground Level 1

Going down the stairs to level 2 there is no sign of level one. It is not open to the public and is not accessible from the main stairs at either end of the bunker. This level used to house the Government, administration and technical departments.

Underground Level 2

At the bottom of the stairs is the radio operators' room complete with Morse code signalling equipment and a room displaying 'The Russian Threat'. This shows models in Russian army uniforms, weaponry and the hammer and sickle flag. These are viewed to a background tape of Russian music. Lulled into false security by the out-of-date Communist Russian display, the '1990s issue' label on the decontamination suit is a sharp re-awakener.

Following the corridor that runs end to end of the bunker, on the left is the building's life support plant; air conditioning, heating, gigantic water tank3 etc, a room housing a display of the BMEWS4 system (although this was never actually sited at Hack Green), and a fire fighting control room.

On the right of the corridor is the communications centre with vast arrays of switchboards, a 'No Smoking' notice from British Telecom dated March 1984, early computer VDUs, telex machines, a BBC broadcasting room (Radio because TV would be unusable), The Minister of State's office, briefing rooms, and the regional commander's office (with his bed in the corner).

Adjoining these is the office used by representatives of government departments. In rows, the 1980s style wooden desks are labelled for their officer, eg Transport, Local Government, Environment, MAFF5. Each desk has an in tray, telephone, phone manual, paper pad. A tape plays busy background office talk. It's all very ordinary, very functional. That is, until the words of the tape sink in. Phrases along the lines of 'Tell them that if they find any of their relatives or neighbours are dead, to put them by the side of the road to be collected.', 'I think there's going to be a lot of commotion, we can't let that happen, you'll have to use terminal force if necessary'. These tapes do not sound like actors. They sound as if they may have been recorded during emergency planning exercises.

Also on this level are two video rooms. One plays a previously banned BBC documentary6 interviewing the public about the possibility of the West being the first to use nuclear weapons and showing their version of the consequences of a nuclear strike at Rochester. In this film flying glass was the least of the consequences to worry about. The other plays the pre-taped public broadcasts which would have been transmitted before an attack.

Back to Ground Level

The stairwell at the far end of the corridor, painted a shade of yellow on the advice of psychologists for the benefit of staff, goes back up to ground level. The tour arrows pass by the Project Chevaline (Trident) strategic Thermonuclear Weapon sitting quietly in an alcove off the landing 7 and lead into the women's dormitory. The dormitory contains about twenty narrow, thin and lumpily mattressed bunks each about 18in apart. They were used on a 'hot bed' system. A nice 'hot' bed just vacated by someone about to begin a shift was immediately occupied by someone who had just finished their shift. The men's dormitory was on the other side of the corridor. Next door is the hospital containing two hospital beds and an array of medical equipment. The bunker had to be completely self sufficient; there was no access to outside medical help.

From here the tour takes you back to the café past more posters. These go into some detail on the radiation effects on the human body and display more government produced survival advice, (an update on the 1950s broadcast the visit started with), including the Home Office's 'Protect and Survive' booklet8. In this, the advised 'fall-out' room had become a shelter within the house, made of doors leant against the wall or over boxes and stacked up with bags of as much and as thick material as could be found. Further posters featured companies who would build private bunkers in the garden.

Questions Answered, Questions Raised and Rumours


The question answered is the one no one knew to ask, 'What's that building really for?' Hack Green also gives a pretty good idea of what it might have been like living in a nuclear bunker.


More interesting are the questions a visit to Hack Green leaves unanswered:

  • Why was Hack Green, along with many similar bunkers, decommissioned less than ten years after costing £32 million? The usual reason given is Glasnost but the Soviet Union wasn't the only threat.

  • Has it been accepted that these attempts at protection and survival were futile?

  • Have these bunkers been superseded by something else that no one knows to ask about?

  • Would the government of today try to keep the public calm the way they did in the 1950s by giving reassuring but, with hindsight, not always accurate advice?

  • Where has all the interest in the nuclear debate gone?

  • What was the person that chose to cover the chairs in psychedelic swirls of orange, pink, red, neon green, blue and purple in the communications rooms thinking?

  • Who chose the 135 people that would populate it?


In the 1980s many UFO sightings were reported in the vicinity of Hack Green. Something was said to have landed in a field killing three cows and attracting the interest of the intelligence services. There was a theory that the bunker was part of a conspiracy with the military and UFOs, and the inaccessible Underground Level 1 contributed to this. The Wirral-based Parascience Group investigated. After a site visit they found that the closed areas were used for storage and as a conference centre. They found no trace of links to external tunnels and concluded that there was no longer any government involvement there. They debunked the bunker conspiracy theory.

How to Get There

If you want to take in the whole site, absorb the atmosphere and watch all the TV/Video shows you should allow at least four hours for your visit.

You may be inspired to song. Local musician, Matt Warren, was. 'Hack Green' was written in the early 1980s and performed by Smackwater Jack. If you are inspired, you might want to consider allowing yourself more time...

Opening hours (as in 2001):
It is open daily from late March to late October, 10.30am to 5.30pm. In winter it is open from 11.00am to 4.30pm on weekends only, but is closed in December.

The bunker is down lanes signposted from both the A530 between Whitchurch, Shropshire, and Nantwich, Cheshire, and the A525 Whitchurch to Audlem road. For non-local visitors, the easiest route is via Nantwich (signposted from Junction 16 on the M6, the nearest motorway), taking the A530 to Whitchurch, the turn off to the bunker is on the left just after the small bridge at the end of the lake as you leave the built-up area. If you get to the larger bridge over the canal you've gone too far.

For anyone wishing to use public transport, Crewe railway station is a major UK rail junction with good railway links to most of the UK. Hack Green is less than ten miles away by road. There is a closer railway station at Nantwich. Local trains from Crewe will connect with this but taxis will be harder to find there and would probably have to be arranged by phone.

Access and facilities:
There is wheelchair access to the first floor only and there are facilities for 'mother and baby', the blind, partially sighted, deaf and the hearing-impaired.

1The bunker was decommisioned on 27 September, 1992.2RGHQ for Home Defence Region 10.2.3Enough water for 135 people for 12 weeks including decontamination showers is a lot of water.4Ballistic Missile Early Warning System5Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, though now known as DEFRA - or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.6The War Game by Peter Watkins, commissioned then banned by the BBC in 1965. Shown first in 1985 and used as a training film by the Civil Defence Corps.7Like the BMEWS this was not originally sited in the bunker.8Produced by the (UK) Central Office of Information in 1976 and reprinted in 1980. Crown copyright.

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