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Vital war bunker’s new lease of life

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A fascinating project to turn a bomb-proof underground war bunker into a family home and hotel was under the spotlight on hit TV show Restoration Man this week.

The unique transformation of the World War Two bunker in Watnall into a luxury boutique guesthouse was explored by presenter George Clarke.

In his opening speech on the Channel 4 show, he described the project as ‘crazy, mad and ambitious’ and ‘one of the most incredible’ he had ever seen.

Behind the project are furniture company owner Jamie Brown and wife Jane, who is a hotel manager. Mr Brown bought the bunker for just £72,000 at auction. He said: “I had to have it.”

“It’s just the fascination of having something that not everybody has got,” he said. “It’s very unusual and a challenge.”

In-depth work had to be done with planners before the green light was given for the project — then 25,000 tonnes of earth had to be excavated to reveal the whole of the 15,000 square foot structure.

As part of the programme, architect Mr Clarke explored the past of the bunker, which was built in 1941.

It played a crucial role in World War Two with RAF personnel inside pinpointing enemy fighter-planes using rader and helping to manoeuvre British bombers.

But its future looks very different with Mr Brown’s plans including a family home and then a unique, themed guesthouse.

“We’ve opened the rooms up to be double the size of most hotel rooms,” he said. ”We’re sharing something that’s quite unique and we want to make the experience unique for guests.”

It will be some time before the venture is fully open. But it will feature themed rooms – one being the Winston Churchill Suite and another being named after the commander of the bunker at the time, Air Vice Marshall Trafford Leigh Mallory.

Gary Davidson’s firm Homebright in Giltbrook has been employed to fit all the windows.

He said: “It’s amazing. This place had never seen daylight before. The walls were so thick because they were bomb proof, we had to use a special machine to knock through them.”

Mr Brown is unsure of the cost of the project at this stage, saying it was ‘ever changing’ but it will be hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The first stage of three – to do up the living quarters for his family – is almost complete and the couple and their son look to move in during spring.

A spokesperson for the production company, Tiger Aspects, said: “Like every other project we undertake the RAF bunker has become a mysterious journey. When we meet our ‘restoration warriors’ we immediately get a definite idea of what they hope to achieve.

“The bunker has certainly been one of our most ambitious projects but we are delighted to report that Jamie and Jane worked closely with George and through sheer determination and boundless creativity transformed this deserted monolith into a delightful dwelling for the 21st century.”

The bunker was built in 1941 in a disused railway cutting off Main Road. It closed in 1961,

 

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