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The Story of the
Holton Heath, Dorset, UK
Royal Naval Cordite Factory

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This website is
© Copyright Dr Bob Dukes, John England
 and John Hale (Site Designer)

With grateful thanks to Malcolm Bowditch
who supplied information and photographs

Content may only be used by prior permission

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Site Updated: 04 August 2017

The Royal Naval Cordite Factory (RNCF) was built between Poole and Wareham during the First World War to make Cordite, which is classed as a propellant, not an explosive. In 1914 Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, decided that the Royal Navy needed its own plant to produce high quality material.

A number of locations were investigated before the 500 acre site at Holton Heath was chosen with its good road, rail and sea links.

The RNCF was effectively self-sufficient and had its own internal rail system with about five miles of standard gauge track and 14 miles of narrow gauge, together with its own rolling stock. During the First World War, cordite was dispatched to a jetty in Poole Harbour by rail where it was loaded onto sailing barges for transport to Priddy's Hard in Gosport.

There was strict secrecy with security measures governing the lives of those who worked at the RNCF with even the families of those working there not knowing what jobs their relatives did nor the dangers involved.

The chemistry of explosives is complicated and there were many dangers in the processes. Overall safety record was good but in June 1931 there was an horrific accident with the loss of ten lives.  

During World War Two there were various defensive measures taken by RNCF including establishing decoy sites nearby to thwart enemy actions.

The factory finally closed in 1957 but many of the buildings still survive.

Welcome to the Official Website of the
Royal Naval Cordite Factory
Holton Heath, Dorset, UK
Take a web tour of this important Factory 
situated in rural South Dorset and experience
what it was like to work in secret during and 
between the Wars, and see what remains today

The Story of the
Royal Naval Cordite Factory
16 min Trailer for feature length DVD

© Greenacre AV Productions, Wareham, Dorset

<< Click picture to start playback