Projects Photography Posts About

This is a very old project but one I am still very fond of. Trying to discover the true purpose of a suspicious dome in Southampton.

My name is Steve, and I have a slight facination with a building in Southampton. For the past year I've had to go via Southampton on the train to get to Bath. Stuck for things to do, I took to looking out of the window. Eventually, after about a month, I started to notice a strange shape on the horizon.

It was dome shaped. With two chimneys coming out the top. And I couldn't really tell if it was on this side of the estuary or the other. Either way, it was huge.

One year on, and I'm determined to find out what it is. I have my ideas: it's a very sinister building, and I'm going to do my best to get as close to it as I possibly can.

My goggles came! I have all my maps, satellite photos, metering equipment, two bottles of ribena, a twix, some company in the form of Marianne, a notebook (and a pen), a Bronica SQA with a 75mm lens, a Canon EOS10D with a wide angle lens as a backup and to photograph things that are big up close (like domes), about 15 rolls of Fujifilm PRO400H, 3 rolls of 35mm film which I forgot to take out of my bag, a spare film back if I need to take lots of photographs quickly, enough money for trains, bus fares (whatever they will be), and for a cab (0800 666666) from Marchwood to Southampton if I get lost, my Young Persons Railcard, the 'half price return' voucher my nan found, my phone (fully charged), and some old binoculars.

And I've told an adult where I'm going.

A seven-in-the-morning alarm was a shock. But I have work to do. I'd packed my bag the night before, and I loaded my first film on the 164 red bus. It was only a 35p fare.

I'm not allowed to use my Nan-pass this early in the morning, but I think they could tell I was on a quest: if questioned on the train I am to blame those who sold me the ticket.

It will take fifty minutes to Southampton Central. I will visit Pokesdown, Christchurch, New Milton, Hinton Admiral, Brockenhurst, Sway, and Totton (which I'd later travel through anyway).

And there it is - the closest I've ever been to The Dome. I get about ten seconds per journey to look at it.

We leave the station on Platform 4 - following the signs in the station for 'busstops'. After looking at an empty timetable holder for a bit, we decide it's probably on the other side of the station. And it was. A 9A went past, and another, and then a number 8 at last. On the other side of the road. I asked (another) Number 9 driver and he said it'd be along soon.

It was exactly the same bus type as the 164. It was just blue. Blue and more expensive.

We did the train route backwards, until we got near to Totton and I saw this sign - the first pyshical evidence that Marchwood exists.

And I have never felt so lost.

It's definetly Marchwood, we're on Tavells Lane and there's a big sign with 'Marchwood' on it.

This was one of the first sights in Marchwood. It's quite obviously abandoned. It's by the water again - was this the previous incarnation of The Dome?

So far this has been a ghost town. No people, no cars, no domes.

Old Magazine Close was a street name that had stuck in my head since I first saw the maps.

The Dome should be at the end of this road.

Through the trees the Dome emmerges. By this point I had walked into a little village, and it was peculiar to see this giant behemoth looming over it. I wonder if anybody here knew what the Dome did.

I was beginning to wonder if there was any people in this village in the first place; I still hadn't found any.

A short hike through a bush and I was there. The private property signs didn't bode well. It was joyous to see The Dome so close.

The signs said to report to the security lodge. I did what I was told: I was terrified this was going to be as close as I was ever going to get to my dome.

He came out to greet me before I'd even got to the door. He never told me his name, and he didn't like my camera (I asked for a portrait).

I didn't know what to call it, so I pointed out the window and he knew immediently. The first thing he told me was that I'd not be allowed anywhere near it. He said this because "of what they do". They'd had problems with anarchist groups. I couldn't believe I'd come this far to look at it from behind a fence. I looked at his map and he told me not to consider going right; that was a high security army base, and they'd shoot before asking questions.

I asked him if he had a number for the building. It was on a list beneath 'MOD Rapid Response'.

80875550. Is that even a real phone number?

My mobile phone refused to dial the number, leading me to believe I'd been lied to even more.

I walk back to the phonebox on the otherside of the road as a BT van pulls up outside. I pick up the reciever: no dial tone. By this point the van driver is directly next to me (his van window was down, and my phone box had all the glass smashed out). I asked him if it was broken. He said yes and didn't know where another one was.

Marianne did - we'd passed one on the bus. About forty minutes walk away.

After walking for what felt like forever, and still passing no people or cars, I found the phonebox.

This one had a dial tone. The first person I got through to was someone at 'PMI'. He was actually in The Dome. He said I had to ring another number. I wrote it down and I did. This time I had telephoned Winchester: they said I had to dial another number to speak to Keely Gallagher. Picking up the answer phone as soon as I spoke, she introduced herself as working for 'Veolia'.

I explained what I wanted to do and she said she'd ring me back. About a minute later she did: to tell me what I can visit in six months time. Time to clean up what they were doing?

I wasn't getting any closer.

I walked back to The Dome.

PMI. Veolia. Neither of these are anywhere to be seen on the park's sign.

Problems with anarchists, two different names neither of which are listed, all those pylons just for The Dome, right next to a major (but one I'd never heard of or seen on my maps) military base, and so terrified of having a lens within a kilometre of the building.

Just as it's sinister form signifies, something very strange is going on inside this building.

I can only guess that this is a test site of some description, perhaps for the military next door. My satellite image shows there are many smaller buildings inside, hidden away by the Dome's casing.

8.13 on my meter.

In Bournemouth it would hit 2 at the very most.

With the extreme security, and even telephone boxes being against me, I feel I've done the most I can here. I've visited the Dome, and I'm pretty certain with all the clues I've discovered that this is a military experiment.

I will research more at home.

Click here for BBC News page

And now I know what I am looking for, it doesn't take long before I stumble accross lots of news articles and information on an event in Southampton about a year earlier, I would think about the time the Dome's construction had just began.

The news is that a Nuclear submarine was to dock in Southampton. If you look on the maps; it's docking where the Dome is. What is interesting however, is that the Government drew up emergency plans for a nuclear incident at the site. Plans are inplace to deal with nuclear contamination within a 2km radius around The Dome.

I think I'll be back in six months.