In the early 1950s within a rural part of Brentwood, Essex, a 125 foot-deep bunker was built as a RAF air defence station. It was later repurposed as protective accommodation for the Prime Minister and other government officials if the threat of nuclear war was to worsen.
In the years that followed, the bunker had many differing purposes up until 1994 when it was officially decommissioned. Nowadays the impressive structure is visited by tourists, used as a film set or forms an impressive backdrop for military reenactments and paranormal events.
Of course I had to visit the Hatch – every inch of it screams Dystopic. It didn’t fail to ignite the imagination and, as it was built at the height of dystopian fiction, it really added another level of understanding to that fascinating genre. It represents the reality of novels like 1984 and is a powerful reminder that Orwell and his contemporaries genuinely thought they faced the disintegration of civility as they knew it.
Even from outside, the bunker is a bleak and compelling place. Perhaps because it reveals nothing of itself.
But nearing the entrance you begin to get a feel of its history. It truly is a snapshot of a war-torn country fueled by paranoia and suspicion.
Inside, absolutely everything is built for purpose rather than comfort. The long, thin corridors and never-ending greyness has the potential to drive its inhabitants insane with its cold, harsh monotony.
The Kelvedon Hatch is definitely an eye-opener, whether you are interested in dystopian fiction, the cold war or would just appreciate the experience of being in such a unique setting. It provides so much detail about the mood of the country at the time, but it’s not particularly museum-like – it’s also whimsical and strange enough to be entertaining (in a very creepy way).
To find out more about the bunker and how to visit, click here to be taken to their website.