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Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey

#2 of 13 in Things to do in Waltham Abbey
Children’s Museum · Historic Site
There’s plenty to see and do as you explore the Royal Gunpowder Mills with a variety of exciting and informative exhibitions.

Set in 170 acres of natural parkland, there are more than 20 buildings of major historic value. It was known as ‘the island’ due to the network of canals which were developed to transport gunpowder to and from the site.

Step through the gates to discover this ‘secret island’ full of fascinating history and exciting science for a surprising family day out.

Award Winning Film & Exhibition

Travel back through time as this extraordinary film, complete with amazing special effects, takes you on a journey from the discovery of gunpowder to the race into space. Find out how gunpowder and explosives have literally shaped the world – both for good and ill over the centuries.

Discover the hidden truth about this top secret facility which has played a major part in the defence of the realm through the ages. Through a series of interactive displays, find out how gunpowder came to Britain, what life was like between the decks of a warship, how the famous bouncing bomb was developed and the vital role the Gunpowder Mills played in both World Wars.

The Armoury is an impressively comprehensive collection of small arms and militaria, displaying over 200 historic firearms covering the periods from the English Civil War to present day conflicts. Visitors are encouraged to handle and inspect a variety of historic weapons.

Visitors are able to enjoy is the ‘Rocket Vault’ where you will be able to see some of the secret rockets worked on at Waltham Abbey.

Professor Nitrate’s Mad-Lab is a fun-packed series of hands on experiments and activities set within the laboratory of eccentric rocket scientist. The Professor is always on the look-out for willing volunteers to test his latest theories so visitors will need to be prepared for fun-filled and, occasionally, smoke-filled adventures!

‘Women at War’ is a fascinating photographic display highlighting the vital and varied role women have played during wartime. The exhibition perfectly captures the unfolding social history as women took a significant step towards equality.

‘Dangerous Days’ brings together surviving artefacts, explosives-making equipment, pictures and sound recordings which reveal fascinating details about the dangers and heroisms of the people who worked at, and lived near, the ‘Royal Gunpowder Factory’ during the Second World War.

The 1940s Exhibition is an authentic recreation of the sights and sounds of an air raid; visitors can step inside an Anderson Shelter and view a a 1940s general store, post office and see a 1940s toy shop.

For nature lovers, the Wildlife Tower is perfectly positioned on the edge of the woodland, offering visitors a great vantage point with panoramic views to spot the resident wildlife. Get up-to-date information, photos and facts about the wildlife living on the site.

Then take a stroll down the Nature Walk to explore a large section of the thriving woodland from a network of boardwalks, bridges and footpaths.

The Military Truck or Land Train Tours are always popular, offering the chance to see areas of the site which are normally restricted. The area is home to plenty of wildlife and the remains of a number of buildings which were vital to the production of gunpowder on the site.

The tours last about 40 minutes and are accompanied by one of the site’s experienced guides. (There is a small extra charge for land train tours.)

Please see

or call 01992 707370 for more information.
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Royal Gunpowder Mills reviews

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435 reviews
  • Visited last year and really loved the firework display great day out for family . Would come back again  more »
  • Visited in half term with my nephew's, they enjoyed the hands on experience and professor Nitrates show, to be honest I think I enjoyed it even more., the on-site cafe was outstanding, we all had a.....  more »
  • All activities were a reasonable price. Staff and volunteers were more than happy to help and all super friendly. I would come back here and recommend it First time at gunpowder mills - “professor nitrates science lab”.. science show/ slime making/ rocket launching.. kids loved it! (Ages 8- 2).. for £8.25 it’s really great value.. an extra £1.50 to paint your own T-shirt too.
  • Really committed volunteers are a joy to behold and if your interest is military or industrial history, then this is for you. The other interest here is the Site of Specific Scientific Interest which is full of great wildlife. I didn’t get to see the museum as this was a (free) add-on after the 2.5 hour tour of the site. But I hear that’s v good.

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