Wiltshire Tourist Guide

Accommodation near Porton Down - Wiltshire

Overnight accommodation near Porton Down is mostly available in nearby centre of Salisbury and hamlets and villages in the immediate vicinity of the establishment.

Salisbury |

There is accommodation both close to Porton Down in villages of Porton, Gomeldon, the Winterbournes (on the A338 Marlborough to Salisbury trunkroute), Winterslow and the Wallops (on or clost to the old A30 London to Exeter and Penzance road). There are also campsites in the area, for example Whitehill Caravan Park at the village of Pitton.

The origins of Port Down reach back to 1916 when the establishment was set up to combat the use of mustard gas in the trenches during the First World War. Porton was chosen as it is set in a natural bowl and provided the necessary secrecy for conducting trials. The establishment was under the control of The Trench Warfare Department of the War Office and was known as the Royal Engineers Experimental station. Research and development of the means of gas deployment and respirator protection continued through the 1920’s and 30’s and involved the Royal Artillery as well as the Porton Down Research Flight based at nearby Netheravon and latterly Boscombe Down airfields.

Although stocks of chemical weapons were built up and deployed to high risk locations during the Second World War poison gas was never used. As well as everyone’s distaste for such weapons this may well have been the indiscriminate nature of the risks to both sides when used. Following the discovery at the end of the World War II of advanced chemical weapons held but not used by the Germans for which the allies had no antidote and the political climate of the time research and development was given a new impetus. Development and research during this time was top secret and very little was known about the activities. Espionage stories surfaced from time to time in the media but secrecy was the watchword. The two main departments of Chemical Defence Establishment and Microbiological Research Establishment were established during this period.

In 1979 the establishment was no longer part of the Ministry of Defence and became the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research (CAMR) within the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS). In 1994 CAMR moved from PHLS centre to the Microbiological Research Authority (MRA) and reported to the Department of Health. All these name and department changes carried on for several years until 2001 DERA split into two organisations Qinetiq, a private company the name of which could mean anything, and DsTL (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) which could mean lots of things. So it continues.

Fortunately we live in more enlightened times but the threat of war and terrorism from rogue states remain. The training of troops and others in combating chemical and biological warfare is as necessary as ever but today there are many and varied research and development organisations working at the establishment pursuing wholly peaceful and beneficial research.

Perhaps the best indication of this is the recent £10 million grant given to Porton Down for the building of its projected Science Park and the encouragement of technological and research companies to come to Porton.

It is of interest that the whole of the Porton Ranges are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and contains some of the rarest plants, animals and insects to be found in the UK. The other, the Porton Meadows, is a narrow strip of meadow land on the banks of the River Bourne between the A338 and Gomeldon and Porton villages are also of interest.

If you are staying a few days in accommodation near Porton you maybe find time to visit some of the attractions that are close by. The Army Air Corps Museum is just up the road at Middle Wallop on the A30, the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection on the Old Sarum airfield Business Park and the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral are to mention but a few.

Accommodation near Porton