Inside Doncaster's secret nuclear bunker: Vintage 1982 TV clip reveals Cusworth Hall war HQ

Doncaster’s secret nuclear war bunker has been revealed – for the first time in nearly forty years in fascinating archive TV footage.

Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 8:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 8:47 am
Inside Doncaster's secret nuclear bunker (Photo: BBC).

The BBC has released a clip showing inside the bunker beneath Cusworth Hall which would have been used as an emergency HQ in the event of a nuclear attack on Britain at the height of Cold War tensions.

Back in 1982, the then South Yorkshire County Council revealed the war rooms in the bowels of the historic country hall where 80 chosen top brass officials would have been based in the event of a nuclear war.

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The footage, filmed for early evening news magazine show Nationwide, reveals that the bunker had been kept secret from the public for more than 20 years – but had been opened up to the public to show just how ineffective it would be!

Reporter Pattie Coldwell tells viewers: “The whole point of the exercise is not to show what sophisticated civil defences we have – on the contrary, its to prove in the event of a nuclear explosion, places like this would be absolutely useless.”

The clip, first aired 37 years ago, shows a group of men, women and children being driven to Cusworth Hall to see inside the bunker – which is nothing more than a room with a few desks, telephones and maps – and a broken clock.

Inside Doncaster's secret nuclear bunker (Photo: BBC).

Pattie tells the camera: “It’s in a sorry state. There’s no beds, no food stores, no tools and no communications. If the bomb was dropped tomorrow this bunker would be completely useless.”

SYCC decided to open up the bunker amid propaganda films at the time suggesting that people would be able to survive a nuclear attack on Doncaster.

An unnamed council official tells the camera: “It gives the impression people will be able to survive. Its a con job.”

Members of the public get a glimpse inside the bunker. (Photo: BBC)

Asked what’s wrong with the bunker, he replies: “There are quite a lot of things wrong with it.”

“If we had a nuclear war, we couldn’t cope with it.”

The camera reveals broken telex machines dating from the last war, rusting kettles and piles of crockery and a few dusty maps scattered around the walls – as well as a wall clock where the batteries have stopped. 

The presenter tells viewers: “This South Yorkshire bunker is more suited to Dad’s Army in the 1940s than a nuclear retreat in the 80s,” adding, “If this Doncaster bunker is ever used, the chosen few may never live to tell the tale.”

The clip was released by the BBC Archive department, which showcases old footage from its news archives on Twitter.

And while the bunker remains it now has a much more useful purpose – as classrooms for young visitors to learn about the heritage and history of Cusworth.