KELVEDON HATCH, England (Reuters) - It was supposed to have been the safe redoubt where Britain’s leaders would hole up in the event of nuclear attack, but now a huge bunker east of London is more like a time capsule of 1950s high-tech.
“LimeBuried”, deep beneath the Essex countryside, is an unlikely tourist attraction - a not-so-secret, secret nuclear bunker.
Built in 1952 and covering an area of more than 3,000 square meters (33,000 sq ft), it has accommodation for up to 600 people, communications equipment, a doctor’s surgery and a broadcasting studio.
Desks are covered in what was the most modern technology at the time - from rotary-dial telephones to tickertape machines to computer green screens - but would now be seen as cool retro vintages to be picked up at auction houses.
Further in, bunk beds are crammed into annexes and corridors and a hospital operating theatre looks almost ready for use.
And for those hungry after marveling at the artifacts, a canteen at the end of the tour serves hot and cold meals - largely using the original catering equipment.
The original owners of the requisitioned land bought the cold war relic from the government and opened it to the public - complete with all the original fittings and features.
“We farm some 2,000 acres here and farmed over the top of it as part of the secret cover,” owner Mike Parry said.
The installation, which cost more than 10 million pounds to build - a hefty sum in the 1950s - had been costing the government around 3 million pounds ($5 million)a year to maintain and so was decommissioned, Parry said.
“We opened as a tourist attraction on the theory that it is better to have some control over the public in the middle of the farm,” added Parry, who declined to say how much he paid - just that the figure had a lot noughts in it.
That decision has proved popular. Visitors emerging from the 110-metre-long entrance tunnel are greeted by a scene that looks untouched for decades. But throughout there is no escape from the enclosed feeling and mustiness that permeates.
“It would have been intense down here with no windows. You would have been connected to the world but completely shut off,” said Adam Ditchburn, a 31-year-old museum officer visiting with his parents. ($1 = 0.6210 British pounds)
Editing by Michael Roddy and Elizabeth Piper