Ceri Sansom discusses the National Archives WW1 report

Sometimes it’s interesting to have a different perspective and recently I was reintroduced to Historic England’s First World War National Factories Assessment (2015).

It takes a historical perspective on the development of the nationally operated factories from World War 1.  They chart the social changes and architectural developments of the time, as well as being of interest to those in contaminated land. 

The scale of manufacturing is worth considering with over 8,700 companies contributing to munitions production during the Great War. Many were repurposed private factories but 218 were purpose built and government operated. Many of these have, ironically, been lost from Ordnance Survey mapping. As the assessment states many of the sites have been demolished due to contamination risks noting that:

In nearly all cases the sites have been demolished and redeveloped. This reflects the fact that often these were complex chemical works whose buildings could not easily be adapted to new functions, and in addition they were often contaminated by the products they manufactured, making reuse hazardous and demolition and decontamination a preferred option.

Other than for general interest and a brief overview of processes completed at various sites, Appendix B has details of sites with surviving structures that include a detailed history summary that could support your risk assessments.

George Burdon, Commercial Manager comments:

Groundsure understands it is important to have confidence in an extensive data source when researching and compiling desktop studies. When you consider the nature of sites active during WW1 and WW2 it is vital that you are able to identify and understand what occurred in these locations. Groundsure drew from a wide range of sources when putting together our bespoke Ordnance Database, including the National Archives information.

This living dataset receives updates whenever new information is discovered and currently features 281 sites. Our exclusive database covers 16,830 ha of land within England, Wales and Scotland, demonstrating sites like a Chemical Weapons Research Establishment at Portreath in Cornwall to RAF Kinloss near Elgin in Morayshire. 

Most of these locations will not appear on Ordnance Survey mapping, and those that do will likely have had their true designation concealed, some more successfully than others (images 1 and 2 below), thanks to military censorship.

As usual, we aim to include this diligently collected detail within our Groundsure Insight Pack. Groundsure's unique ordnance and military site database is available in the Enviro Insight report as standard.