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Birnie House

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Birnie House lies in Alyth, Blairgowrie, Perthshire, and became notable when it was offered for sale in 2007, shortly after the death of owner Gwyn Grogan, as the sale included a nuclear fallout shelter at the bottom of the garden.[1]

Birnie House is believed to have been built in the early 1900s, when it was received as a wedding present from the Invergordon Estate by a member of the Grogan family.

Private fallout shelter

The privately built nuclear fallout shelter was commissioned by the late Gwyn Grogan, who died in 2006, to protect his family in case of Russian attack, at a time when the Cold War was at its height.

The underground bunker was located at the northern end of the garden at Birnie Hill House, and generally described as having been built in 1973, by an unknown contractor. It would have served as a fallout shelter, intended to provided facilities for several weeks of continuous underground occupation, during which time the most active (and immediately dangerous) fallout components of a nuclear war would have dissipated, but still leaving a radioactive wasteland behind.

The shelter is accessed by a hatch in the garden, and lies about 4 metres (12 ft) underground, with access being through a hatch in the garden. A long sloping stairwell lead to an underground room of 3 m x 3 m (10 ft X 10 ft), which is provided with an electricity supply, a condenser system for purifying drinking water, and a ventilation and air filtration system powered by a modified bicycle. The installation was in full working order at the time, having been maintained by a groundsman. Selling agents Strutt and Parker produced a sales brochure, dated April 27, 2007, when Birnie House was being sold together with adjoining cottage and gardens for offers over £675,000.

The estate agent gave different dimensions (which seem to agree with the video of the room), giving the room dimensions as 12 ft x 8 ft with a height of 6 ft 6 in. He also suggested the shelter was built around 1968, and that the same work would cost closer to £250,000 if carried out at the time of sale, 2007. Agent Robert McCulloch said: 'The nuclear bunker is certainly a quirky feature of the property and is a very important piece of social history. It could be preserved as it is, but can also be used as a great storage facility.'

Gwyn Grogan's wife was quoted as saying she had only visited it once:

I remember my husband showing it to me many years ago but it was terrifying and I never wanted to go in it again.

My husband took it very seriously, so it wasn't used as a place to potter about or for children to play and has lain empty and unused since it was built.

I do remember him buying gas masks and powdered food to put in it but that has all been cleared out.
- Mrs Grogan, BBC News interview.

Despite its lack of use, Mrs Grogan said the shelter had become a talking point among locals and had even attracted the odd tourist.


1 BBC NEWS | Scotland | Tayside and Central | Nuclear bunker offered for sale Retrieved February 14, 2011.

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