Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey, Essex
Described by Historic England as the ‘most important site for the history of explosives in Europe’ this remarkable and beautiful landscape chronicles the development of explosives, propellants and finally rocket motors and fuels from the Civil War to the Cold War, including rare surviving WW1 factory buildings, and intriguing structures and earthworks.
The Royal Gunpowder Mills is a Scheduled Monument with over 20 listed buildings. It is also designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its wildlife. Its alder woodland is undergoing conservation, and the site features a unique three level industrial canal system (now mostly dry).
Only the southern part of the site is accessible to the general public, where school activities and events take place and there are exhibitions about the history of the site and its manufacture, an armoury, an exhibition of rocketry, and a café. A number of the site’s many volunteers are people who worked here during its final incarnation as a top-secret research establishment to 1991. The northern part of the site awaits restoration and can normally only be viewed from a popular landtrain tour.
Tours of the out-of-bounds parts of the site will be led by a knowledgeable guide, entering particular interiors if appropriate. The tour will introduce participants to hidden architectural gems as well as the stories of the site and the purpose for which each structure was designed. Sturdy footwear required.
Please see special restrictions below. The walk is approximately two miles long.
... very knowledgeable guides and a very friendly group of people.
From J26 of M25, take A121 to Waltham Abbey; or from J25 of M25 go to Waltham Cross and then A121.
Nearest station is Waltham Cross, connecting London Liverpool Street or Tottenham Hale underground (Victoria Line) to/from Cheshunt/Broxbourne/Hertford East. The site is a 25-minute walk east from the station, or there are buses and taxis.
Coffee, tea and cakes.
Footwear must be suitably sturdy for a two-mile walk on uneven terrain. Walk lasts for 2-2.5 hours with no facilities en route. Not suitable for young children or pushchairs.
There is disabled access throughout the parts of the site for general visitors, including the landtrain tour. But the ‘off route’ tour would be too hazardous.