How to Visit Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker in 2024

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker
Main entrance to Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

The Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker is hidden deep beneath the Essex countryside in southeast England. This cold war command post would have housed the British Prime Minister in the event of a nuclear attack.

There are many cold war secret nuclear bunkers around the UK and the Kelvedon Hatch bunker is arguably the most important as it would have housed the British cabinet had there been a nuclear war with Russia.

Being a huge fan of dark tourism and having an interest in the cold war, I visited the Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker on my first trip back to England from China. Although I grew up in Essex, I never made it and it was always somewhere I had wanted to visit.

Boring stuff: I have visited each of the places I recommend and give you my honest opinion, warts and all. All photos are my own unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission. Affiliate links may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.


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Visiting Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

My friend picked me up from Shenfield Station which I knew well, and we made the short drive through the pleasant East Anglian countryside to the site under a bright blue early summer sky.

Upon following the signs we made our way off the road and onto a dirt track across a couple of fields. There was nothing to indicate that this was one of the most important sites in the country during my childhood.

We arrived at a small field that doubled as a car park which wasn’t very busy. A large chimney appeared through the undergrowth in front of us, but aside from this, there was still nothing to indicate we were near a cold war command centre.

We followed a path to what looked like a small bungalow or office building in the woods. Outside were a couple of military vehicles and an old V2 rocket or similar.

A sign on the front of the building declared a state of emergency! We entered the building where you could collect a headset which gave a commentary of the building and exhibits. We then made our way down a long corridor that lead deeper and deeper underground.


About the Bunker

The bungalow with its protective blast screens is the entrance to a labyrinth of rooms and stairways built into a small hillside.

The bunker was constructed in 1952 as an air defense station but as the cold war heated up its use changed to a regional government headquarters.

The construction of the bunker was so secret that neither the villagers nor the workers knew what it was for.

The complex was built to house approximately 600 people and includes its own air conditioning and heating systems.

How Deep is Kelvedon Hatch Bunker?

Weapons in the armoury
Weapons in the armoury

The complex is reinforced with 10ft thick concrete walls and descends three stories to 125ft (38m) below ground.

In the event of the government needing to leave London, this is where they would come to assume command of any act of aggression from the former Soviet Union.

There are 3 floors beneath the hillside which contain an operations room for the central devolved government, a science lab to track radiation, a BBC studio to broadcast important news to the population, a canteen, dormitories and a sickbay.


Inside the Bunker

After descending the 100-yard-long entrance tunnel to the bottom of the three floors and passing a small armoury, we entered a series of small communication rooms with radio and computer equipment dating from the 1960s onwards.

There was a short public-service video about what to do in the event of a nuclear strike (duck and cover) which some might remember from their childhoods.

We then made our way past the large generators up to the next floor which housed a large control room and sickbay. There were displays of equipment and different NBC outfits and gas masks. I’m not sure if it’s allowed to try them on, but no one stopped me from donning some of the gear!

Sick Bay

Sick Bay
Sick Bay

The sick bay contained a few beds and cabinets filled with medical equipment. Posters on the walls reminded staff about secrecy and security. Next, we made our way to the barracks which included a room for the prime minister which contained a dummy with the face of Margaret Thatcher!

The spaces inside aren’t huge and it’s hard to imagine 600 people living down there for a period of up to 3 months as it was designed for. Thankfully though, the complex was never used as the cold war dissipated after the fall of the Soviet Union.

We left the bunker and exited through a tunnel in the hillside where we entered a small gift shop and canteen. This is where you must pay at the end of your visit. The gift shop sells a few books and posters about the cold war.


How to Visit the Secret Nuclear Bunker

Opening Times

Summer (March 1st to October 31st)

Weekdays: from 10am to 4pm

Weekends: 10am to 5pm

Winter (November 1st to the end of February)

Thursday to Sunday 10am to 4pm.

Admission Prices

  • Adult entry is £7.50
  • Child Entry is £5.50 (5 to 16 years)
  • Family Entry is £18.00 (2 adults and 2 children)

Cards are not accepted at the nuclear bunker Kelvedon Hatch so make sure to bring enough cash for entry and souvenirs you may wish to buy.

There are no guided tours of the bunker but the headphones provided will guide you around the exhibits. Allow one to two hours to complete it.

Facilities

  • Audio guide in x languages
  • Toilets
  • Gift shop
  • Cafe
  • Free Parking

How to Get to the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

Address: Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 0LA. Click here for directions.
Tel: +44 (0)1277 364883
Website: www.secretnuclearbunker.com

Train: Due to the bunker’s location in the remote Essex countryside there is no direct service by public transport. From London, it’s relatively easy though. You can take a train to either Brentwood or Shenfield and then take a taxi the final 7 miles.

Underground: Take the Central Line (red) to either Debden, Theydon Bois or Epping and take a taxi.

Bus: Take bus 21 from Brentwood or Harlow and get off at Kelvedon Hatch.

Road: Access is from the A128 Ongar to Brentwood Road. If you need to rent a car, our partners at Discover Cars have some excellent rates for car hire in the UK. Click here for a quote.


Where to Have Lunch?

The Eagle Pub in Kelvedon Hatch
The Eagle Pub in Kelvedon Hatch

Although there is a small canteen/cafe at the bunker, I’d recommend heading to one of the village pubs for some good, old-fashioned pub grub (and a pint or two if you’re not driving). We went to The Eagle a few miles from the bunker.

Nearby Places of Interest

Kelvedon Hatch is a little off the beaten path, but now you’ve come this far you can explore more of my beautiful home country of Essex.

The ancient Roman capital of Britain, Colchester, the charming riverside settlement of Wivenhoe and Frinton-on-Sea are all within an hour or so drive or reachable by train from nearby Shenfield.


Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker FAQs

Is there a nuclear bunker in England?

There are 258 nuclear bunkers across the UK. It’s possible to visit at least six of these including the Kelvedon secret nuclear bunker.

Where is the secret bunker located?

The secret bunker is located in Kelvedon Hatch Essex which is close to Brentwood and 28 miles northeast of London.

How deep is the secret bunker?

The cold war bunker Essex is 125 feet (38 metres) deep and covers three floors underground.

What is the biggest bunker in the UK?

Although Kelvedon Hatch Bunker is one of the biggest in the UK, the largest is Burlington in the Cotswolds.

Conclusion

Now you know all about the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker and how to visit this fantastic museum buried beneath the Essex countryside. This is one of my favourite cold war attractions in the UK and I highly recommend a visit if you’re as interested in this period as I am.

More UK Travel

If you want to discover more unique places in and around the UK capital, check out this list of 10 hidden gems in London or for more dark tourism destinations, check out this list of dark & unusual things to do in London!

Check out this list of some of the best UK Tours.


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About the author:

Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has traveled to over 60 countries, lived in Armenia, China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.

Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of the world by train, bus and boat. He has been interviewed multiple times by the BBC and recently featured in the documentary Scariest Places in the World. See the About page for more info.

Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲


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