When we talk about the Corsham Institute (Ci), we're often asked 'Why Corsham?', so here are some of the events along the history and heritage timeline that laid the foundations for Ci today.
Firstly, Corsham is a market town at the Southern end of the Cotswolds, 7 miles outside of Bath in Wiltshire and 100 miles due west of London which, with its surrounding villages, is home to some 30,000 people.
Through a quirk of history and geology, Corsham also has one of the UK’s largest digital capacities, in the form of data centres, cloud services and MOD communications, with up to 3% of the world’s email traffic, and numerous digital services used by every UK citizen, routed through Corsham every day.
Before the Nineteenth Century, Corsham was a thriving town centered around the wool industry. The arrival of the Great Western Railway and specifically the opening of Brunel’s Box Tunnel in 1841 saw a transformation of the local economy and an enduring pattern of development.
During the excavation of the Box Tunnel, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, had discovered a rich crop of green oolitic limestone. Known today more commonly as Bath Stone it became synonymous with the building of the intricate architecture of the Georgian period. Over the next 70 years the stone mines in Corsham employed over 2,500 people and extended to over 5 million square metres.
At the end of the First World War, part of the mines were re-purposed to become the home to the Central Munitions Storage Facility and in 1939 other parts of the mines were transformed into shadow factories to support the Second World War effort.
In the early 1950s and as the Cold War started, Corsham became a vital part of the UK’s national critical infrastructure when, as the site for Harold Macmillan’s emergency seat of government, parts of the mines were converted into a secret underground city to house over 2,500 civil servants in the event of nuclear war.
In 2010, the Ministry of Defence consolidated its core communications and all ICT activities onto a single site in Corsham, to form the Global Operations and Security Control Centre, communicating across the world to our Armed Forces in at least 28 countries. In 2016 the Government announced that a further £40 million would be spent on a new Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) in Corsham.
Corsham is a centre for the UK Government's digital activity. Tax returns, criminal records, the DVLA and up to 10% of the health care in the UK is processed in Corsham. From the video data from cameras that are worn by police officers around the country, to the Genomics England project, which will sequence 100,000 genomes from 70,000 people.
Corsham has a huge digital footprint. The Corsham Institute was founded to deliver social impact and to find ways of leveraging this digital infrastructure and activity for the benefit of citizens and the community.
We're incredibly proud of our heritage and these foundations have enabled us to develop our mission today.