Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

ROF Risley

ROF Risley was a Royal Ordnance Factory that specialised in filling and priming shells and bombs during World War Two. It was filling factory No. 6 (ROF Chorley was the biggest - filling factory No. 1).

 

After the war it served a Cold War purpose, used by the Atomic Energy Authority. It may not have appeared on maps at the time but the USSR was aware of its existence and role.

 

Even today there are remnants of both its Second World War and Cold War history dotted around its vast site near Warrington.

 

Birchwood Forest Park now stands where much of the ROF filling factory once stood. These landscaped mounds (below) are actually two of the bunkers where bombs were kept - covered in earth to lessen the impact of any explosion. There were around twenty of these bunkers and below we have No.s 9/13 & 9/14.

risley 14 - 2 (640x480) Risley 13 - 14 (2) (640x480) Risley 13 - 14 (3) (640x480) Risley 13 - 5 (640x480) risley 5 (640x480) risley 3 (640x480) risley 4 (640x480) Risley 3 - 6 (640x480) Risley 3 - 4 (480x640) risley 3 - 1 (640x480) risley 1 (640x480) pillbox Delenty 6 (640x480) Risley 1 - 2 (640x480) pillbox Delenty 1 (640x480)

A typical ROF type observation post is still visible today on Delenty Drive. Fortunately it has survived the new houses.

Below: Bunker No. 9/3 is the most obvious on the site. It is easy to locate as it has the bandstand on top of it.

Below Left and Below Centre shows the now blocked up rail entrance to the bunker from the path below and then above.

Right: a recently unearthed concrete block with a large metal handle - A ventilation shaft or an access point perhaps?

Left: Bunker 9/1. Overgrown and hard to spot, but near to 9/3. This photo shows its road entrance. Its rail entrance is heavily overgrown.

 

Below: Some evidence of the on site railway serving the bunkers is still viewable between bunker 9/13 and bunker 9/14. This is close to the modern road called Ordnance Avenue.

 

As the site is a Country Park, access is easy, parking is close by and you can wander about at will.

Birchwood Park - is a business park largely on the site of the old ROF site. Some of the old buildings can still be seen (many are modernised) and interestingly the site has retained the number system from its ROF days which can be seen on the buildings themselves.

Below are some random examples of ROF buildings still in existence today.

For a more detailed description of ROF Risley and more photos see:

The 2E Images Photography and Local History Pages. It is a great resource.

A view from someone who worked there is this page:

Sitting on top of a bomb - the unsung heroines of Risley ROF

The Post War use of the Risley site was for many years not known, due to its Cold War role. However, Wikipedia now tells us the following: "After the war it became the site of the design offices and laboratories for the United Kingdom's fledgling nuclear weapons and nuclear power programmes. Universities Research Reactor was operational in Risley until 1991"

"Universities Research Reactor, also known as Universities' Research Reactor or University Research Reactor, was a small nuclear research reactor in Risley, Warrington, England. It was jointly owned by Manchester and Liverpool universities and used for performing neutron activation work and training reactor operators".

While there WAS a research reactor, quite why the four bunkers were left standing while all the others were demolished is unknown. In any case, despite what is written on the "Sitting On The Bomb" website, it does not seem plausible that these four bunkers were left standing due to their closeness to the research reactor - as they were NOT the closest.