Listed Building

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Anti-Aircraft Operations Room, including radio transmission mast, Craigiehall, South QueensferryLB52396

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 16695 75614
316695, 675614


This former Anti-Aircraft Operations Room was built in 1953-4 and has a later 20th century metal roof. The building is a 2-storey, square-plan, reinforced concrete structure with entrances to the ground floor through steel blast doors in the centre of the east and west elevations. Reinforced concrete blast walls protect these doors.

The interior was seen in 2016. There is a central, 2-storey U-plan area with a balcony on the upper level with a metal railing. Surrounding this are a series of narrow, concrete-walled corridors, with smaller rooms accessed from these. There are five staircases in the building. Three are situated against the external walls and two are at the centre.

A large steel array mast topped with a cross gantry aerial platform is situated to the east of the building.

Statement of Special Interest

The former Anti-Aircraft Operations Room at Craigiehall and its associated radio mast is a rare example of a building type which was important to national defence during the Cold War period. It is the best surviving example of its type in Scotland and is an important part of our military history.

It survives largely unaltered to its exterior and retains a significant amount of its 1953–4 plan form and interior fittings. The building contributes to our understanding of strategic defence planning in Scotland and the United Kingdom during the Cold War period.

The roof has been altered and there have been some internal alterations.

Age and Rarity

The Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) at Craigiehall dates to 1953-4 and was constructed as part of a national defence scheme during the Cold War period. It transmitted information from the Sector Operations Centre at Barnton Quarry in Edinburgh to individual gunsites in the Forth and Rosyth gun defended area. Soon after it was erected it became redundant due to changing technology and defence priorities. The building is currently used by the military as a training and conference centre (2016).

The Cold War, which took place from 1945-1991, was a period of tense international relations between the USA and the former Soviet Union and their respective allies following the end of the Second World War, when the fear of nuclear war was pervasive. The UK joined the USA in the collective defence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), from 4 April 1949, which contracted the participants to a mutual defence response in the event of an attack by any sovereign force. Similarly, the former Soviet Union would become part of the Warsaw Pact alliance, from 14 May 1955, thus delineating the two opposing sides of the Cold War.

Radar, airfield and coastal defences were largely scaled back in the UK at the end of the Second World War. One of the most noteworthy changes to anti-aircraft defences at the beginning of the Cold War was the technological advancement of air to air missiles. This advance allowed better deterrence of air attacks, as aircraft could engage in combat while in flight with more accurate weapons and from a greater distance. The UK was to be kept in a state of constant readiness.

In the possible event of air attack, a preventive coastal defence artillery system was revived. Older anti-aircraft battery sites were reused and a handful of new sites in Scotland were created, with the AAORs controlling the guns remotely. AAORs were in turn under the command of the regional Sector Operations Centre. The arrival of the missile age by the mid-1950s, and the introduction of powerful new surveillance radar such as the Type 80 with superior range, led the government to reappraise its defences and it was decided to abolish coastal defence artillery by 1956. The AAORs thus became redundant or were transferred to other government departments as war headquarters.

The role of the AAOR in the UK was to transmit information by radar from the Royal Air Force (RAF) Sector Operations Centres (SOC) to individual gun sites located in specific gun defended areas (GDAs) across the UK. Craigiehall AAOR would transmit information from the SOC at Barnton Quarry to the individual gun sites at the Forth and Rosyth gun defended area.

All AAORs in the UK were built from 1951-56 to a standard design and plan form and were either constructed on the surface or were semi-sunken. According to the Subterranea Britannica website (,) there are 31 AAORs in the UK. According to Cocroft (2003), the radar-laid anti-aircraft guns of the Army created 28 protected AAORs in target areas in the UK. Of the total number of sites in the UK, four were built in Scotland to cover the four protected GDAs, and all of which would have reported to the Group Commanded unit at Barnton Quarry, Scotland's SOC. These other AAORs in Scotland, at Gairloch, East Kilbride and Inverkip have lost much of their internal fabric.

The only known listed AAORs in the UK, are in England at Frodsham in Cheshire and Mistley Heath in Essex. Both are listed at Grade II (List entry numbers 1391976 and1411745). Both are largely intact example of this building type. The AAOR at Craigiehall is a relatively intact example of an AAOR and is a tangible evidence of the early phase of the Cold War.

The current Craigiehall Estate dates predominantly to the construction of Craigiehall House (LB45432), completed in 1699, by Sir William Bruce for Sophia, Countess of Annandale and her husband, William, Earl of Annandale. There had been an earlier tower house on the estate which was replaced with the current house.

The Earl of Annandale's son James took over the estate in 1715. In 1741, the estate was bought by the Hope-Weir family, who were connected to the estate through the marriage of the Earl of Annandale's daughter, Lady Henrietta Johnstone to Charles Hope, 1st Earl of Hopetoun. The Hon Charles Hope (later Hope-Weir) had completed a Grand Tour of France and Italy with Robert Adam. On his return in 1754-5, he had ideas for some improvement at Craigiehall, particularly in the grounds, gathered from this Grand Tour. He planted trees along the River Almond and constructed Craigiehall Temple (1759, LB26928), Craigiehall Bridge (1757, LB5563), the Grotto and Bathhouse (circa 1755-60, LB5562) and an ornamental lake, around 1760.

Craigiehall was sold in 1933 to the 5th Earl of Roseberry, who owned the neighbouring Dalmeny estate and who bought it for his son. His son was killed in 1917 and the estate was eventually let in 1926 to James Morton, who was a textile merchant in Edinburgh. The house became a hotel and country club in 1933. Following requisitioning by the Army in 1939 it was bought by them in 1951.

This anti-aircraft operations room is a highly specialised building type which is rare and it is considered significant for its association with a post-war national defence strategy. Because the detecting technology as well as defence priorities associated with these buildings became redundant soon after their construction, many have been demolished or are in an extremely poor state of repair. The survival of this one with its relatively intact interior and associated communications mast is of significant interest.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The layout of the surrounding rooms and the double-height central area remains largely complete. There has been some alteration, particularly in the central section which has been equipped as a conference area with modern seating and lighting, but the majority of the other rooms and corridors retain their original form. Listed AAORs in England have retained the Perspex windows on the upper storey of the central area, but these have not survived here. They allowed staff to look down on the open area below where a plotting table would have been placed.

Plan form

Externally, the AAOR is square in plan with extensions to the east and west where the concrete blast walls protect the entrance doors. This is a standard plan for all AAORs. Internally, in common with other AAORs, the building has 2-storeys. Some AAORs had a sunken ground floor, but here the 2 storeys are above ground. Plans of other AAORs show that the internal layout here is very similar to others throughout the country with a central, double-height area and surrounding smaller rooms on each floor. There are narrow windowless corridors between the rooms, giving maximum protection to the centre of the building in case of attack. As many AAORs have been demolished or altered, the retention of this original internal plan form is rare and helps to understand the original function and purpose of the building.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

All AAORs in the UK were built with similar specifications and for a specific function. The reinforced concrete used here was typical for defence buildings and allowed for maximum protection from any attack. There are no windows to the exterior of the building to maximise the defence and security of the building. The later metal roof has altered the appearance of the exterior of the building from a flat roof to a pitched one.


The AAOR at Craigiehall is situated to the north of the Craigiehall estate and is part of a group of other military buildings dating from the 1950s onwards. The southern part of the estate has Craigiehall (house) at is core, surrounded by a number of ancillary 17th and 18th century estate buildings.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations as all AAORs built in the UK were all built to a similar design. Some have a sunken ground floor as mentioned above.

Close Historical Associations

The AAOR at Craigiehall is associated with the development of Cold War strategic defence.



Canmore: CANMORE ID 351199

Printed Sources

Catford, N. (2010) Subterranean Britain: Cold War Bunkers. Monkton Farleigh: Folly Books Ltd. p.104-106.

Cocroft, W D & Thomas, R J C (2003) Cold War: Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989. Swindon: English Heritage. p.147-154.

Innes, C.B. (1996) Craigiehall: The story of a fine Scots country house. Typescript.

McCamley, N. (2007) Cold War Secret Nuclear Bunkers: The passive defence if the western world during the Cold War. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books Ltd. p.114-122.

Internet Sources

Craigiehall AAOR: [accessed 29/06/2016]

Information on AAORs: [accessed 29/06/2016]

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Anti-Aircraft Operations Room, Craigiehall, South Queensferry, west elevation, looking east, on cloudy day with road in front.
Anti-Aircraft Operations Room, Craigiehall, South Queensferry, east elevation, looking west on cloudy day with grass in front.



Printed: 08/07/2020 04:38