Poly isobutylene

ROF Bridgwater

Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) Bridgwater is a factory which produced high explosives for munitions.

It is situated between the villages of Puriton and Woolavington in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, UK; but was always known as ROF Bridgwater, after the nearest town. It is located slightly above sea level, all of it lying between the 5 and 10 metre contour lines on Ordnance Survey maps. BAE Systems will close the facility when decommissioning is completed in July 2008.


It was constructed early in World War II for the Ministry of Supply, with the Ministry of Works acting as agents. It was designed as an Explosive ROF, to produce RDX, which was then a new experimental high-explosive developed at the RGPF Waltham Abbey. Construction work started in 1939 and the factory opened in 1941.

It was also known as "ROF 37", a name that was reflected in its sports and social association, known as the "37 Club", located in a building just outside the perimeter fence.


As munitions production needed a guaranteed all year-round clean water supply of several million gallons per day, the site was ideally situated, being able to obtain supplies from the water logged Somerset Levels:

  • The artificial Huntspill River which was dug during the construction of the factory.
  • The King's Sedgemoor Drain, which was also widened at the same time.
  • From water that accumulated due to the high water table in the "Borrow Pits", which has been generated when earth was removed to produce traverses around the explosive magazines.

Both of the waterways are now an integral part of the drainage system of the Somerset Levels.

The ROF was essentially self-supporting other than for the supply of raw materials. It generated high-pressure steam for heating and production processes using its own coal-fired power station; it could also produce electricity using a steam turbine. During World War II before the National Grid was fully developed, it was connected to two independent public electricity generation stations: Portishead power station (now demolished) and Shepton Mallet power station.

Housing for workers was built, between 1940 and 1941, as "pre-fabs" in the adjacent village of Woolavington. Hostels for single workers were also built at nearby Dunball, by the King's Sedgemoor Drain.

The site was guarded until shortly after privatisation by the MoD Police. The MoD Police had their own barracks and canteen located opposite the main factory gates. These have long since been demolished. However three brick-built MoD Police houses are still in use on the Woolavington Road, but they are no longer occupied by the police.

ROF Bridgwater was connected to the Great Western Railway (GWR) by a private branch line and sidings, complete with its own dedicated locomotive. This was used both for intake of supplies, such as acid in tanker wagons from ICI and coal for the power station, and for distribution of the finished product.

A new bridge was built in the early 1970s to carry this line over the M5 motorway, just north of junction 23, when the M5 was extended southwards from its terminal junction with the M50 motorway. The railway branch became disused after the privatisation of the ROFs and the rail tracks have been lifted. The British Rail sidings were known as Huntspill (Puriton).


During the construction period it appears that the decision was made to fill munitions, including the bouncing bomb, with a mixture of TNT and RDX rather than RDX alone. ROF Bridgwater manufactured RDX in two separate production units which was sent to Filling Factories, such as ROF Chorley and ROF Glascoed for filling into munitions. It also concentrated and re-cycled its own sulfuric acid.

Like all ROFs at the time, ROF Bridgwater operated as a production factory. Formulation of explosives, propellants and munitions was carried out at separate government-owned research and development establishments such as the Research Department, which was initially based at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich and then Fort Halstead; and at PERME Waltham Abbey, which later transferred to RARDE Fort Halstead. After privatisation Royal Ordnance PLC took over some of the UK government-owned research and development capability, other parts were closed or became part of QinetiQ.

Post World War II

During the slack period between 1945 and the Korean War ROF Bridgwater, like ROF Chorley and ROF Glascoed, built two-storey pre-fabricated concrete houses.

Additional capability


ROF Bridgwater is now owned by BAE Systems after the Royal Ordnance factories were privatised on 2 January 1985 and became part of the Explosive Division of Royal Ordnance Plc, later RO Defence. Both names, Royal Ordnance and RO Defence, have been dropped and the site is now known as BAE Systems Land Systems. The facility will close in July 2008.


Further reading

  • Dunning, R.W. (2004). The Victoria History of the County of Somerset, Volume VIII, The Poldens and the Levels. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

External links

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