House X - The Strangest of the Nitroglycerine Houses
The Houses listed in survey as type X were initially thought to be Final Wash or Wash Settlement Houses, but as other
Houses became more clearly identified, so this House had to be classified as a type of its own. The featureless interior
of this type of House and its lack of runway or Narrow Gauge entries have made this the most difficult House to identify
in the Nitroglycerine sections. The archaeology and the position provide the only clues to its function.
Archaeological Evidence at the Houses X :
Type X Houses are by far the smallest of the four types within the Nitroglycerine sections and have very unusual
features. The limited evidence is best presented as a list :-
- Two Houses X, one in Unit 1 and one in Unit 2. The bank (bund) of Unit 2 Type X House is of similar type to the
surrounding Hills, but is lower than both the Nitration and Final Wash Houses. Unit 1 House X is actually in a depression in
the side of a slope, thereby being lower than both the Nitration Houses and Final Wash Houses.
- The Charge House is in each case at a higher level but within view.
- Central square house with featureless asphalt floor, surrounded by signs of the same corrugated asbestos clad frame
building that is present in the other Hills.
- Three pedestrian access tunnels, all of plain concrete and without any sign of acid-resistant gritless asphalt.
- Unit 1 House X full of brushwood - floor hidden, two entries with steps, the third out onto the slope.
- Unit 2 House X accessible, with a reused wartime industrial tank as a farm water header tank over one entry. None of the
three entries line up with the other three Houses.
- Pipe supports run to Hill X from the Central Services area and not apparently from either the Charge House, the
Control Blockhouse or the Nitration House.
- Detailed examination of all wartime and immediate postwar air photographs shows that the House X structures were square
buildings without connections to the other Houses in each NG Hill. However, in Unit 1 there is a Narrow Gauge bogie railway spur
running up to but not inside the narrow western entry of House X.
Possible Interpretations of House X :
Again, a list is the best way of presenting these. :-
- Onsite laboratory to make the Abel heat test of samples for stability, the alkalinity test
to ensure all acid had been neutralised and the moisture test to establish the quantity of water in the weight of
nitroglycerine. Problems in that the samples would be carried along a concrete floored passageway - a fall could lead
to sparks and an explosion. Advantages, in that the testing was well clear of production areas and accidents would be
contained by the Hill.
- Samples magazine for holding acid and nitroglycerine samples, if testing was done in the labs in the Unit 2
Central Services area. Problem of carrying unstable samples a considerable distance.
The site evidence and the details from Gordon Nicholson are sadly too few to completely resolve the interpretation.