back to article World's first dedicated computer centre declared 'irreplaceable' by Historic England

Block H has been declared one of England's "irreplaceable places", the National Museum of Computing has joyously announced. For those wondering why on earth TNMOC is preserving the women's prison block from the 1990s Aussie telly series Prisoner: Cell Block H, it actually refers to one of the most historic buildings on the …

  1. Andy Taylor


    "Block H was built in September 1944 specifically to house Colossus valve-based cipher-breaking machines, making it the world's first dedicated computer centre."

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I think they need to make up their mind, as on one of the guided tours the guide pointed to a foundation and some concrete steps and told our group that this was the long since removed site of the first Colossus hut.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Presumably a guided tour of Bletchley Park... Bletchley Park doesn't like to acknowledge the existence of TNMOC. Which organisation can truly claim the "original" location, I don't know.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          The tour of BP included a visit to TNMOC and a look at the rebuilt Colussus working.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Ah, so have BP and TNMOC put their differences behind them? I hope so. There was a time when BP tour guides were forbidden from even telling people how to find the entrance to TNMOC.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    TNMOC rocks!

    Well worth a visit, lovely staff, nostalgia, lots of working and non-working computers, plus all manner of bits and pieces.

    Go and see Colossus, if nothing else. This is computing you can see, hear and smell.

    1. Keith Oborn

      Re: TNMOC rocks!

      Also go and see "Baby" at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry afterwards. Not quite the next step in the chain, but close.

      And a short walk away, in a small quiet public garden, Sackville Park, is a statue of Alan Turing.

      There's a bust of Tommy Flowers at BT Adastral Park, but it's not open to the public.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: TNMOC rocks!

        Also a nice statue of Alan Turing at the Guildford University of Surrey, because of his work at NPL.

        (yes I know it was Tommy Flowers that developed Colossus).

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: TNMOC rocks!

      As does BP. If you're ever in London, it's a 1/2 hour or so train ride, and a 1/4 mile walk from the Bletchley station to the gates of BP and TNMOC. WELL worth the trip.

      (slightly off-topic Q: Have BP and TNMOC kissed and made up yet? Silly buggers. They don't realise they're both on the same side)

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: TNMOC rocks!

        The jobsworths at BP Security still stick up their noses when you say that you are going to NMOC rather than BP itself...

        The BP 'tour' makes little or no mention of the NMOC so I guess they haven't kissed and made up.

        A bit sad really.

        I spent 6 happy weeks at BP when it was a GPO Training Centre. I still use some of the tools from those days.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: TNMOC rocks!

          The BP 'tour' makes little or no mention of the NMOC so I guess they haven't kissed and made up.

          Our BP tour included an visit to the NMOC, for which we had to pay an additional entry fee.

      2. Duffy Moon

        Re: TNMOC rocks!

        "If you're ever in London, it's a 1/2 hour or so train ride"

        Unless you're in south London like me - then it's 2 hours!

        Ahh. The wonders and delights of TFL.

    3. David Austin

      Re: TNMOC rocks!

      Love both Bletchley Park and The National Museum of Computing.

      Always make sure I take any visiting tech heads up there.

    4. WraithCadmus

      Re: TNMOC rocks!

      Yup, they have one of my old machines! I should find out what they did with it.

      Icon: Surprisingly few pirated disks

    5. tfb Silver badge

      Re: TNMOC rocks!

      Yes, TNMOC is *really* worth visiting if you like old computing machinery. One of the best things about it is that quite a lot of it is working, including things like the Colossus rebuild and the WITCH.

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Listed status?

    Has it been actually listed?

    1. Andy Taylor

      Re: Listed status?

      Block H is Grade II listed, since December 2004.

    2. Kevin Murrell

      Re: Listed status?

      Yes, Grade II Listed building. Something we did prior to taking over the building and setting up TNMOC.

  4. Fred Flintstone Gold badge


    Here's to preserving a VERY important part of history.

  5. Yugguy

    We visited Bletchley last autumn and we were priviliged to meet a fine old gentleman named Neville, who is one of the few surviving people who can directly remember Bletchley in the war. He lived there as a child when his parents worked there.

    He was awesome, told us some fascinating glimpses into life there, and let my daughter into some normally off-limits places to take some pics.

  6. oiseau Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "In the early 2000s, the Bletchley Park Trust was about to sell off the Block H and surrounding land to developers ... "

    Incredible lack of the most elementary common sense.

    Good for those who were brave and fought against it.


    1. Andy Taylor

      Google Maps will show you just how close the modern housing was built to Block H - something that the current conservation officer has said they would not have allowed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Incredible lack of the most elementary common sense.

      Yes that describes those in charge of the BP Trust back then..

      The current division between BP and TNMOC largely dates to the souring of relationships that happened back then...

  7. goldfish

    Good News Week

    So very glad to hear that a piece of computing history has not been sacrificed to the alter of the money grabbers.

    It is not often that commen sense prevails, so it is refreshing that something this important has survived.

    Let's hope this could be the start of a trend, but that's probably too much to wish for.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Good News Week

      "So very glad to hear that a piece of computing history has not been sacrificed to the alter of the money grabbers."

      The trouble, although I agree with you, is that we have so much history. It's hard to develop anywhere without there being some history destroyed, buried or the development costs raised due to archaeology having to be carried out. Great example. The A1(M) improvements at Scotch Corner being delayed by nearly 6 months, probably at a cost of £millions, because of archaeology. It's quite stunning what they found, and I'd much rather it was done than not, but this was a simple bit of road widening in the middle of nowhere and they found evidence of Roman coins being minted! You can only imaging what it must be like doing developments in York, Bath, Londinium :-)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't seem to remember any computers in Prisoner: Cell Block H, It was all wobbly walls, some angry women and an especially nasty woman called Ferguson.

    I do need to visit this Block H though and the TNMOC at some point soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can’t believe your mention of “Vinegar Tits” got a downvote!

      Someone wanting to be on the press no doubt.

  9. dermotw


    It's pleasing to see that we are managing to preserve this, I visited NMOC myself a year or 2 back, it's well worth it imho. Flowers, Turing and the (many) others that did some astonishing things deserve the recognition as well! Jack Copeland has an interesting book on Colossus, well worth a read imho.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "irreplaceable places"

    So would the opposite of an "irreplaceable place" be a place that could be replaced to a different place?

  11. TMMITW
    Thumb Up

    The most amazing nerd-tastic place on the planet

    We visited both BP and TNMOC just this past spring. The tour of the computer museum, all done by volunteers, was the most amazing part of my 7 weeks in Europe that included visiting the set of Doctor Who. I can't believe that there was ever any question at all that the UK and our industry must preserve and support this site and its collection.

    Please print up some more T-shirt designs that we can buy online to support the museum. Be sure to allow purchases in USD :)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the shed is listing, it may need repairs

    Oh, listED!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ..Bletchley and TNMOC are friends again?

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