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Towers under construction circa 1960

Technical Information

Catalogue No: PM00084
Picture Type: Rochester Photo Negative
Topic: Sites / Facilities
Title: Towers under construction circa 1960
Date: circa 1960
Width (mm): 108
Height (mm): 83
Copies: 1
Location: Negatives Cabinet PM ("54/" Negs) [RAA Office]

This view is looking North-East from the Boiler House towards the foundations of Tower 1. The large excavation is probably for the core of the Tower which contains the Lift shafts. The actual picture was not loaded onto the Company Database until 1963.

The 1950s saw a substantial increase in the business of Elliott Automation and both the Lewisham and Borehamwood sites were gaining work in their own areas but the sites had little room for expansion. The solution was to move some of the work from those two sites to Rochester but the new avionics business was itself growing there. The Company decided that more space was needed and plans were drawn up for a development to the North of the existing factory to reflect the high technology image of the business. The Towers at Rochester were designed by Yorke Rosenberg Mardall a British architectural firm and construction commenced in about 1960; originally there were to be seven, which would add another 450,000 sq. ft. to the total. This extension was to be built in stages, the first of which was ready for occupation at the end of April 1961.

The main contractor was Arnold and Nathan of East Peckham, Kent who still traded until 2003 but as part of the Try Accord group. Trollope and Colls were contracted to carry out the groundwork and building as they were specialists in reinforced concrete, a necessary skill to make the unique cantilevered floor structure. In the event only three towers were built and the final one was occupied in 1966.

There have been a number of piecemeal additions to the Rochester site after a long period of stability with the Hangars and Assembly Shops together with a miscellany of buildings up at the South end of the Airport. The first major additions were in the early 1960s when the three Towers were constructed and completed by 1966. At the same time the offices along the South side of the Assembly factory were made double storey.

As the business expanded various sites around Rochester and Chatham were acquired, such as the New Road Building for the research centre (FARL), Hopewell Drive for a Training School, and Gads Hill in Gillingham for a Drawing Office and an ATE (eg D-LASAR) group plus, for a few years, a small project engineering group (WFG2) and the EMC Test facility.

The next new building was the Corsair Building, named after the A-7 Corsair HUD programme, which was opened in 1978 on the South side of the site. This was a largely prefabricated construction estimated to have a lifespan of some 15 years but it was still standing in 2022. By 1980 the new Phase III Building dedicated to the growing business in flight controls was operating, and finally on that strip of land the Falcon Building, for the growing research and development of diffractive optical elements, was completed in 1983.

As the business began to contract in the 1990s the outpost buildings were closed down and some considerable refurbishment was done on the main site. The Restaurant was developed into a modern facility and the Towers had significant improvements such as new windows and air-conditioning.

However the basic structure of the site is showing its age and in reality most of the buildings are not suitable for the modern era. The Hangars in particular are very expensive to maintain. An attempt was made in 2004 to plan for a glossy new factory complex but nothing came of that.  More recently the site management has been looking at a site transformation that would replace the older buildings with modern office and manufacturing facilities, and the planning for this is progressing well.

Click to enlarge