Built around 1941, this was a storage only site with I think 28 or so standand ROF design magazines or explosive storage buildings (similar to Featherstone and elswhere) and a number of MPP (military police posts). The site is now split by the M56, most sheds are located on the southern side but about four are to the north of the motorway. The sheds were served by railway only (unlike some other sites) and remains of rails can be seen inside the sheds. They all may (almost certainly) been hidden by full-height earthworks (bunds) but today only a few retain these. Construction appears to be a steel frame arranged as 10 bays clad in brick and a Smith's fire-proof floor roof supported by RSJs.
Interesting to note that in two of the images, an exterior steel ladder leads to the roof. Was, or can you remember if there is a similar means of reaching the roof from the inside Paul?
The times I have driven past these sheds and wondered what they were. I always thought they were for ammunition storage, but never knew for sure.
I have walked this site in the distant past and taken many pics so may still have something in store.
I think that a lot of bulk TNT was stored here as received ex USA via Liverpool Docks. It would then be forwarded to ROFs for bomb and shell filling.
See also a similar depot at Ulnes Walton:
I notice that Midge Hall is close to Ulnes Walton. This was a projected site for an FAA airfield but it was never built.
A short history of the place, it's debateable if it was actually a "ROF", but the workers referred to it as such.
It is quite impossible to miss it, driving into, or out of N. Wales on the M56.
This is a puzzling site. It is easily visible from the M56, travelling in both directions. The most frequent view is of the two brick “sheds” from the M56, travelling past the Helsby turnoff towards North Wales.
Looking at aerial photography websites reveals a number (28) of the “sheds”, and tracks connecting them. They look military, and it starts looking like an military storage area.
Compare the FE, to a map, which also shows the shed numbers:
It is indeed, ROF Dunham-on-the-Hill.
Despite the main function of the ROFs being the manufacture of munitions, “ROF DotH” was to be different. It was not actually involved in manufacturing at all. It was primarily for the storage and distribution of explosives that were then to be used in other ROF establishments as fillings for shells and munitions.
The DotH site was built on a site requisitioned in 1941 for the war effort, on behalf of the Ministry of Supply (MoS) under the “Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939.
Construction of the site started on the 7th June 1941, completed by the 5th August, and was open for use on the 11th August 1941.
Upon cessation of hostilities, the depot was retained as a "Buffer" store for food storage by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF). This role ceased in September 1985, and in 1990, it was disposed of into the private sector.
The main role of DotH during WW2 was for the storage of explosives, but there is a significant story behind this role. Explosives were shipped into the Mersey ports. The geographical position of DotH was very appropriate, as it was in a very good strategic position on the railway lines in the area. The site was not chosen by chance. It was in a position to receive the explosives & munitions, and to then store them for further distribution. It was also well away from the bombing routes in Liverpool.
There were shipments from Canada, distributed to ROFs at Fazakerley, Rhydymwyn, Chorley and Chelford. The shipments to Fazakerley would suggest that the shipments were into Birkenhead Docks.
The explosives shipped in were Neonite, Cordite and TNT; they arrived packed into cloth bags, which were in turn packed into wooden crates and boxes. There were also substantial quantities of ammunition boxes and cartridge cases, as well as boxes of “yellow powder”.
This distribution activity made the local railway line very important to the war effort. There are some local defensive weak spots to the railway, a cutting, and the Frodsham Viaduct, which crosses a wide valley over the River Weaver navigation.
A road bridge across the cutting was protected by a pillbox, which still remains to this day in the corner of a private garden on Wood lane. The viaduct itself was protected from air attack by two Heavy Anti Aircraft (HAA) gun sites, each with 4 guns. They are situated off Aston Lane, and Townfield Lane.
The aerial photo of the Mersey H18 AAA site below is from Google Earth
The storage of the bulk explosives was in a number of brick and steel built “sheds”, 28 in total, which included 10 “sheds” which were designated as “magazines” ( or more correctly, from Mr. Ordnance, an "ESH" - Explosives Store House ), these were surrounded by earth blast mounds, with a brick blast wall at the entrance.
Some of the ESH buildings have had the earth mound removed by Cheshire CC, and taken away to line the nearby Gowy land fill site. Where the mound has been removed, it usually leaves a diagonal line on the blast wall, as in the first photograph.
The security was the responsibility of the “Ministry of Defence Police”. The whole site was surrounded by a single line of seven foot high chain link fencing with concrete posts, and the usual barbed wire on top. Significant lengths of the fence still remain. There were 4 security men per shift, and a gateman.
The site was split into two halves, separated by a "Pillbox" type of office - it has too many holes to be a Pillbox !
There was a hostel on the site during WW2, but most of the people accommodated in the hostel worked at ROF Capenhurst. The hostel is now the site of a traveller’s encampment.
There was also a canteen on-site. Helsby Grammar School was also used as a hostel during WW2 for DotH workers, in addition to another hostel at Lowton St Marys, near Wigan.
The storage “sheds” were all rail connected by standard gauge track work, laid on clinker and ash ballast, and mostly bolted onto concrete railway sleepers, except (as is usual) underneath the points. The points were hand switched. There were around five miles of track, and 30 sets of points. Each “shed” had its own siding, and buffer stop. The rail was flat bottomed, with a height of about 5 inches, which would have been 75 pounds weight per yard.
There was a main line rail connection (to the L.N.W. & G.W. Joint Railway), and sidings, access to which was controlled by a LMS “ARP” signal box, which still exists. The sidings were over half of a mile long, with the longest having a capacity of 60 wagons.
The DOTH No.2 Signal Box (with a 158 passing). The signal box was a LMS ARP design, strenghened against close bomb hits:
There were usually at least two shunting locomotives on the site, one in use, and the other on “standby” as a spare. Locomotives usually arrived on site by road, and were unloaded sideways by draglines and jacks, onto the tracks.
The Fowlers were reputed to have an awkward “gated” gear change, and had a conventional starting handle. The Andrew Barclay “Kent” locomotive had pneumatically operated controls, and required a charged up air tank for starting. On one occasion, the air cylinder lost pressure; consequently the locomotive had to be started by means of a “push” start from a main line loco.
All locomotives wore a dark green livery. They had water exhaust traps, so that sparks could not be emitted from the exhaust, for obvious safety reasons whilst handling explosives.
There was also a “tram” type of rail vehicle, for transporting workers around the site, it featured a roof, and no sides, but was capable of carrying 6 people (probably not in comfort). It had a petrol engine and a friction drive. The driver was always one of the loco men on the roster. However, the “tram” met with an accident where it was crushed, and was subsequently replaced. There was a trailer that was used with the “tram” for carrying small equipment.
The last recalled “military” use was during the Suez and Hungarian Uprising crises in 1956, when the depot was used for the storage of shells, including American shells. The shells included Phosphor bombs.
The local construction company (based at nearby Hooton) of McAlpine, was employed to rebuild and repair the earthworks around the magazine sheds, and to repair the fences around the magazine earthworks – presumably to keep the cattle off. Additionally the lightning protection was re-done, consisting of three bands of one and a half inch copper strip over the roof and sides, connected to another band around the shed, which was in turn earthed to the railway track.
The signal box at Dunham-on-the-Hill Station (not the No.2 ARP signal box) station was closed around 1956, and demolished soon afterwards. There is a closure notice for the No.2 signal box for the 24th November 1951, this signal box was not demolished, and still stands to this day. Dunham-on-the-Hill station closed in 1952.
Fascinating stuff, thank you!
The usual late 1940s pic if the site
Brilliant research, :roll:I have always wondered about the history of this site.
I'm visiting a friend of mine who lives on the new estate just over the hedge from the Ulnes Walton site I'll have to see if I can get some pictures.
Great. I never did manage to find time to get into Ulnes. Look forward to some feedback.
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