Whilst reading through reports on The Urban Explorer, I came across Holton Heath Laboratories and it looked like a pretty awesome place to explore.
Located only 20 minutes away, we headed out early on Sunday morning to avoid any traffic and as we parked up, we noticed a number of CCTV signs.. Ignoring those, we walked down the path beside the fence and along the perimeter to find an entrance.
When The Urban Explorer reported this site back in 2012, it was clear that the security had been tightened and it is exactly the same today. A number of broken and bent fence posts had been replaced. it took some serious squeezing to get through a slight bend in the fence.
When Winston Churchill insisted that the Royal Navy should have their own supply of cordite, Holton Heath was originally chosen because of the remote location and good transportation links with land, sea and rail.
The Royal Navy Cordite factory was set up in World War I to manufacture cordite and the factory was reactivated in World War II to manufacture gun propellants.
After the war, the area was closed down. Some of the area opened as a research establishment and developed into housing, but a majority of the site was turned into a nature reserve.
On the 10th September 1927 an explosion killed 3 men who were working in the acetone recovery building.
What caused the explosion?
Acetone is used as a solvent in the process of supplying cordite. The acetone usually was piped in vapour form from stoves leading to the store where it would be recycled for later use.
It accidentally caught fire in the pipe and caused an explosion.
In November 1929, there was an explosion at the factory which killed one worker and seriously injured three people.
On 23rd June 1931, there was another explosion in the nitroglycerin preparation chamber. Three buildings we completely destroyed and a storage tank was damaged, causing sulphuric acid to spill into the area.
Reports state that the explosion was heard 20 miles away and people working outside 2 miles away were knocked over by the blast.
The deadly accident killed 10 people and seriously injured 19.
Exploring the Laboratory
As we squeezed through the fence, we headed straight into the closest building to the perimeter. A long corridor lined with doors on the left hand side. We went through slowly, opening each creaky door and checking each room as we passed. Apart from the odd piece of furniture, the rooms were stripped bare.
At the end of the corridor, we stopped to figure out our next move. We wanted to stay out of view of the gate which leads onto the road and as we were poking our heads round the corner, we saw a white van, pull up and look through the gate for a couple of minutes before driving away.
We dashed to the closest building. ,A narrow skylight ran center through the roof, all the windows were gone and graffiti covered the exterior walls. We climbed through the window and entered, what seemed to be the main building.
Glass, everywhere. With the sound of glass crunching under our feet, we went to inspect the furniture and structures, trying to figure out what previous purpose it held. Metal bars across the ceiling have started to rust and once again, everything was covered in graffiti.
Coming to another long corridor with more rooms on the left. The paint was peeling from the walls and the electrical boxes were opened and destroyed. Another skylight ran through the ceiling of the corridor, lighting up the doorway to each room. Moving slowly, we checked and scanned each room for anything interesting. Nothing. Apart from some broken glass and the odd piece of smashed up furniture, nothing which resembled the previous environment remained.
The final building we visited was darker than the others, no sunlight reaches the hallway but each room was lit up individually from the large windows. Part of the floor was missing, and there were wires from the electrical boxes everywhere. Turning into the first room and noticed an old work station, with partly existing gas taps and a hole where the sink had been. The other rooms were similar and a pitch black ‘closet’ was near the entrance.
After this moment, one of us heard footsteps across the floor and had a really strong feeling that we were being told to leave.
On our way out, I heard some heavy laughter and banging coming from the first corridor we visited. I quickly turned around to see who was making the noise and no-one was insight. I turned to tell the others and soon realised that they didn’t hear a thing.
We left pretty quickly after that moment.