The Postwar Era of Harwell Village

Harwell Village Oxfordshire near Didcot 1947

In this fascinating 1947 newsreel from British Pathé, we see how the village and community of Harwell Village had to cope with the nuclear facility suddenly erected in their neighbourhood.

When this newsreel opens, we’re in a quiet rural community. Farmers and horse trainers in the fields, small children walking along deserted lanes, and centuries of history in every direction you look.

It’s identified as Didcot, but it’s actually nearby Harwell. (At the time Didcot was still in its historic county of Berkshire, rather than its current ceremonial county of Oxfordshire).

Didcot Atom Village (1947): British Pathé (YouTube)

Then we see the big, ugly building ruining the beautiful countryside. 

It has plenty of barbed wire. But for a nuclear facility, it’s surprising to see just one guard leisurely waiting around the entrance gate. Especially as they have to check the passes of workers and they arrive in groups and trot through.

There’s an image of Harwell airfield too, now abandoned, because the Second World War is over.

The newsreel suggests the new accents of strangers are something worrying for the neighbours, as the facilities draws in large numbers of workers from elsewhere. 

“From the office boy to the biggest boffin of all, they are stopped at the gates”.

When we’re shown the new homes, the narrator is right to state that they somehow don’t look right in the green valley. The scene looks more reminiscent of prefabs built in the desert!

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