Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Secret History of Kirklevington Hall (NZ429108)

Well, it’s not easy to unravel because it was, er, a secret, you understand. But it seems that the grounds of Kirklevington Hall, situated between the village of the same name to the south and Yarm to the north, were a hotbed of covert activity during the mid-20th century.

The hall itself was built by the Richardsons of Hartlepool in around 1881, and used as a family home until the great engineering family were decimated by the Great War. The final surviving family member died in 1940, and it passed, eventually, into the hands of the military who set the place up as a secret base of sorts – a WWII command centre, in fact, for a large tract of the North-East.

The hall itself was utilised, of course, and PoW pens were built in the grounds, but were never used. No one seems quite sure what else went on there, but a huge sprawling bunker was also constructed – but as far as I am able to ascertain this was built in the 1950s during the early years of the Cold War. Officially it was known as a ‘Royal Artillery Anti-Aircraft Operations Room’ (AAOR) and covered the Tees anti-aircraft zone. It seems to have formed an absolutely crucial link in our Cold War defence network.

Back in the year 2000 the ‘bunker’ looked like this – not sure what has become of it since. As for the hall, well, it’s now a hotel.

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