The level of paranoia within the ranks of the Thatcher government in the 1980 was so high that plans to hide art masterpieces from British Museum collections, underground in north Wales, if a nuclear strike was to take place, has come to light. A bunker fitted out to hide works of art was part of Mrs Thatcher’s contingency plan, at the end of the cold war. It was also to be actioned if civil unrest threatened the safekeeping of the works of art.
One of the key locations earmarked was the Rhydymwyn Valley works, near Mold a structure built to house mustard gas shells in World War II. Whitehall’s Property Services Agency wanted assurances that the site could withstand flashes or blasts. However the Welsh Office changed its mind about needing an emergency storage base for the nation’s “few valuable items”.
Fears of nuclear war with the Soviet Union had prompted government departments across the UK in the 1980s to plan for the worst, papers released by the national archives have revealed, the BBC has reported.The scheme to protect art treasures was not originally due to include Wales but it appears a Welsh Office civil servant had asked Whitehall to reconsider.
The Property Services Agency which was part of the Department of the Environment proposed using two of the 10 chambers at Rhydymwyn in which they would construct buildings to house the art.
The Welsh Office was not interested in the scheme and a letter to the Home Office by civil servant Tony Vinall in which he said the officers who made the original request had now gone. “Present thought is that, although we do have a few valuable items, we are not really to be compared with the great national ‘treasure houses’ and it would make more sense for our local custodians to crate their most important possessions and put them in the most suitable sub-basement accommodation,” he wrote.
Margaret Thatcher’s other ministers considered launching the controversial poll tax in Wales before England, according to other files just released under the freedom of information act,. The documents released by the National Archives also show Conservative government advisers feared a repeat of the 1984-85 miners’ strike the following winter. They also revealed Mrs Thatcher was told by her Welsh Secretary that funding cuts would have “most damaging” political effects on Wales and the Nation as a whole.