By Harry Mottram: I wrote this article for the Bridgwater Mercury in 2015 when the old Puriton ROF site was supposed to become an Enterprise Park – now it is set to become a huge car battery plant for the new generation of electric powered cars. The site is just off the M5 at J23.

News from Puriton – 2015

The news that the former ROF site at Puriton is to become an Enterprise Park complete with new access roads and even the reopening of the railway line has prompted memories of people who once worked there.

Back in the day the site was the Royal Ordnance Factory or ROF37 and was used by the wartime Government to manufacture high explosives in the battle against Hitler. The sprawling layout of the site was due to the nature of the work as each unit was spaced apart in case of an accidental explosion. It continued as a place of work under new ownership until 2008 when it was finally closed.

Note how the buildings were all spaced apart

Bob contacted the Mercury about his time there in the 1960s. He wrote: “I served a five year carpenter and joiners apprenticeship from 1963 to 1968. The I became a charge hand for the Ministry of Public Building & Works (MPBW) who were responsible for the maintenance of the buildings.”

“There was obviously no smoking at the explosive factory and you handed any cigarettes you had at the gate in exchange for a numbered disc, and collected them on the way back out. But you could buy single cigarettes in the canteen and smoke them whilst others were eating or playing cards. I even learnt how to play Euchre there.”

How the site looked

Talking of high explosives and the dangers associated with them there was a tragedy in 1951 at the site when an explosion killed six men although it was never established how it was caused. ROF37 was built in 1939 as Hitler’s bombs fell on Europe and the continent descended into war and it opened its gates in 1941 producing RDX which was developed at the RGPF Waltham Abbey.

The site had its own railway

Another worker at ROF37 was Ron Chandler who contacted the Mercury following the news of the plans to redevelop the factory. He said: “I worked at the ROF from the time I left school until I joined the Coldstream Guards in 1945.

“I worked as a laboratory assistant and enjoyed the work very much – especially having to go to different buildings on site to collect samples for analysis. I remember the Social Club – we youngsters had good times – especially playing table tennis.”

The command room at the ROF

One of the reasons the site was located where it is was due to the abundance of fresh water on the Levels which was needed for the manufacturing process. During the construction, the Huntspill River was dug the King’s Sedgemoor Drain was widened allowing millions of gallons of water to flow into the site from the river system. Together with the social club ROF37 (which is still going strong) the rivers are one legacy of the war and the Cold War that followed that have changed the area for ever.

See also

More history at

Photos from Somerset Heritage. See

Axbridge News is edited by Harry Mottram and is published for the interest of himself and fellow residents.

Harry is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc