Spitfire production ended in November 1945, and the Castle Bromwich became a car body factory, owned by Fisher and Ludlow, then British Leyland, and now by JLR. Some of the site has been significantly altered as JLR has modernised its production machinery and methods, but other areas are listed and must be maintained in period.
For years the morgue was used as a store room by JLR’s data department, housing old computers and other IT equipment. Now, though, it has been cleared out and is due to become part of the Castle Bromwich’s Classic Tour, during which enthusiasts get to see the factory and drive some fruity old Jags.
On Monday we were on site to collect Autocar’s new Jaguar XF long-term test car (more on which in the coming weeks) and got a peek inside the morgue courtesy of tour guides Matt and Tom.
As you walk through the double doors into a gloomy, sloped walkway, the first thing that hits you is the smell. It’s not unpleasant, just that distinctive musty smell of the past that pervades places that haven’t been subjected to a stiff breeze or daylight for a few decades.
As your eyes adjust to the half-light and the walkway turns through 180 degrees, the wall is covered in a spider’s web of wiring and fuse boxes. It’s the 1938 original wiring and, despite some exterior corrosion here and there, everything looks in stout working order to my untrained eye. Things were built to last in those days…
At the bottom of the slope is a corridor outside the morgue doors. There’s an original bed, a bed pan and chairs. At some point in history someone has scrawled ‘Villa’ on the wall in what looks like (but I hope isn’t) blood.
On one wall, gleaming in the semi-darkness, is a stainless steel medicine cabinet that has been restored by Tom and is filled with original medical kit. On the opposite wall is a sobering list of all the sites in Birmingham that were bombed during WW2 between 1940 and 1943. Castle Bromwich is mentioned on multiple occasions.