Date Visited: July 2007
The National Gas Turbine Establishment is without doubt the most illustrious I've visited. Development work on the engines for the V-Bombers, Harrier, Concorde, and the Eurofighter Typhoon are just some of the notable engineering projects that Pyestock contributed to. Cell 4 could simulate conditions that allowed Concorde engines to be run at the equivalent of Mach 2 at 61000 feet. Naval gas turbines were tested here – every type used by the Royal Navy was tested here, enduring realistic sea worthiness tests to ensure their ability to perform when in service. Work at the facility was considered secret and with the adjacent R&D facilities at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, they collectively constituted one of the finest aerospace research and development facilities in the world.
By 1973, 1600 people were employed on site, but thereafter, the site began to gradually decline as Britain’s aerospace industry retrenched and became more about international partnerships. There was less work on supersonic engines and by the late 90's though, computer simulation and other techniques meant that Pyestock had become costly, obsolete and arguably, irrelevant. While some facilities at Farnborough and Pyestock remained in operation, the site was earmarked for redevelopment.
The online urbex forums were awash with reports from the place as from an urbex perspective, it was a bit of a holy grail – a vast, completely intact, research facility with a porous fence and light security. However it was at the wrong end of the country for me. Still, little is achieved without putting some effort in, so with a small contingent of explorers, we set off from the northwest at 5AM on a sunny July morning.
After finding access, we made our way into the nearest building and proceeded to bump into another group of explorers, who alerted us to a security guard approaching. To get busted just after entry and after a 5 hour drive would have been disappointing, fortunately, he was on the adjacent site, so we breathed a little easier. And that was the only security we saw in over five hours on the site. In that time though, we only visited a small portion of it – Cell 3, Cell 10 exhauster, Plant House, and of course the massive Air House with its eight massive red and white compressor sets.
The site lay abandoned until 2013 / 2014 when it was finally cleared to make way for a Tesco distribution depot, an ignominious fate for such a significant place.
Best place to read about the place is here http://www.ngte.co.uk, it contains pretty much everything you could conceivably want to know!