Special events planned for the 75th anniversary of the opening of ROF

A special event is being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the Royal Ordnance Factory’s opening next week.

The site, better known as the ROF Chorley or Filling Factory No.1. is now the home of Buckshaw Village, but was once an area designated for munitions works.

Chorley workers filling shells at ROF

Chorley workers filling shells at ROF

Work to build the factory began in January 1937 and took around two years to complete, with the site officially opening on March 31, 1939.

The factory, the main entrance of which was on Euxton Lane with gates on Wigan Road and Dawson Lane, employed more than 1,000 production workers by the outbreak of the Second World War, in September 1939.

Historian Steve Williams said: “The site was officially opened by King George VI and during the Second World War employed more 35,000 workers, representing 20 per cent of the total workforce making munitions across the UK.

“In the spring of 1943, workers at the site filled Torpex explosive into the famous ‘Bouncing Bombs’ used to attack German dams in the dambuster raids.

“Back in 1985, the ROFs nationwide were privatised, and production on the Euxton site was finally transferred to south Wales in 1997, with decommissioning and decontamination taking place between 1998 and 2007.

“Very little remains of the original ROF buildings except those on Euxton Lane.

“The main office building is now Runshaw College, while next door the Central Stores still remains, along with a number of signs, fire hydrants and lamps dating to 1938.”

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

In the late 1930s, leading up to the outbreak of war in 1939, the government developed a strategy to disperse munitions production away from major cities which were felt to be especially vulnerable to bombing.

The Ministry of Supply built a number of Royal Ordnance Factories and satellite factories, with ROF Chorley and ROF Bridgend being the two largest filling factories.

Twenty filling factories were built in total, but none were so large or employed as many people as Chorley’s and Bridgend’s.

When it opened, ROF Chorley was planned as a permanent Royal Ordnance Factory with the intention that it, unlike some other similar facilities, would remain open for production after the end of the Second World War.

Together with ROF Bridgend (Filling Factory No. 2), it was set to replace the Royal Filling Factory located at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.

After the war, the Chorley factory briefly manufactured the concrete components for two-storey pre-fabricated concrete houses, as well as concrete railway sleepers and clothing.

THE SITE

The old railway line cut the ROF site into two areas. The smaller was the administration site which lay between the railway and Euxton Lane, which is where the factory’s main administration office was located.

It also contained test labs, a medical centre, the MOD Police and the main canteen building.

The canteen was also equipped with a stage and was used for concerts and other entertainments during the war.

The larger area of the site lay to the north of the railway line and was the main explosive, or ammunition filling, site.

ROF Chorley had its own private railway station, ROF Halt, which was last used in September 1965.

The railway station and platforms were demolished in 2002 as the former ROF site was flattened for the massive conversion into the
Buckshaw Village housing development.

The new Buckshaw Parkway railway station, which opened in October 2011, is built on the same site as the old station.

THE ANNIVERSARY

Runshaw Adult College, situated on the former ROF site on Euxton Lane, is holding a special anniversary event next week to mark 75 years since the factory’s opening.

Former employees have been invited to look at some displays, and special guests including the Mayor of Chorley, Coun John Walker, MP Lindsay Hoyle, and the Chorley Remembers group are all expected to attend.