The Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey, celebrating John Smeaton's 300th anniversary


The Royal Gunpowder Mills

Celebrate the life and work of John Smeaton - the Father of Civil Engineering.

Sunday 14th July 2024 11am till 4pm

Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 1JY

£15 adult, £10 child. Parking is free.

Book here for 14th July

Video introduction to the site here

2024 is the 300th Anniversary of the birth of John Smeaton and the Royal Gunpowder Mills will be celebrating with a special talk and Smeaton-inspired children's activity.

The Royal Gunpowder Mills volunteers have been diving into the archives to research RGM's connections with Smeaton, the father of civil engineering, and have prepared a fascinating talk about the significance of his work. Discover how his designs of mills, canals and more changed this site, the River Lee and the world!

These activities are free with admission so don't miss out!

The Royal Gunpowder Mills general open days are on selected Sundays throughout 2024!

The site will be open twice a month on every second and fourth Sunday. Please see the dates listed below: 

9th* & 23rd June, 14th* & 28th July, 11th & 25th Aug, 8th & 22nd Sept, 13th & 27th Oct, 10th & 24th Nov and 8th Dec

*Special celebration of the 300th anniversary of John Smeaton, the Father of Civil Engineering, whose work improved the Royal Gunpowder Mills and River Lee.

Visit during open days to experience the thrill of exploring the historic gunpowder factory and discover the secrets of its past. Immerse yourself in the rich history of this unique location while enjoying the beautiful surroundings of greenery and woodlands.

There are engaging activities for all ages, including rocket-making workshop, tractor-trailer tours, railway rides, interactive exhibitions and more!

Whether you're a history enthusiast or simply looking for a fun day out, exploring RGM is the perfect way to spend your Sunday.

Full details here

The Royal Gunpowder Mills is happy to take group bookings. If you have or know of a group who would like to organise a visit to us please see their website for more information:

Visit the Royal Gunpowder Mills website to find out more:

The Gunpowder Railway     The Gunpowder Railway is a narrow gauge railway running roughly 1 km along the perimeter of the Royal Gunpowder Mills site. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a narrow gauge railway was used to transport materials around the site. Over the past decade a dedicated team of volunteers have constructed a 2 foot 6 inch gauge, passenger-carrying railway, reflecting this history. 

Tractor Trailer Guided Tours  Take the Tractor Trailer Guided Tour to the 'out of bounds' part of the site. You will see the remains of buildings used in the production of explosives including the Grand Nitrator (where nitroglycerine was manufactured), Newton’s Pool used for the testing of underwater explosives including the explosives used in the Dambusters' “bouncing bomb” and the iconic Press House with waterwheel and press where one of the most dangerous processes on site took place. 

The Rocket Vault. From tank busters to rocket motors used to launch satellites into space – see some of the secret rockets worked on at Waltham Abbey. The exhibition shows the development of rocket motors and propellants from Congreve's gunpowder rocket of the early 19th century through to the guided missiles from the cold war era and in the Falklands war. Former employees are often on hand to give guided tours and answer any technical questions concerning rockets and propellants.

The Armoury (one of the most popular attractions). The Armoury is a unique and comprehensive collection of small arms and militaria, acquired by The Royal Gunpowder Mills with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The exhibition displays over 200 historic firearms covering the period from the English Civil War to present day conflicts. Volunteer staff are on hand to explain the science, technology and history of the various types of weapons on display which include heavy medium and light machine guns, sub machine guns, manual and self-loading rifles, revolvers and pistols, mortars, rocket launchers and grenades. Visitors are encouraged to handle and explore a variety of historic weapons - this "hands on" experience is one of the many highlights of the attraction.

Film and Exhibition. An award winning film, revealing the history of explosives and how they were produced at the Royal Gunpowder Mills, makes an ideal starting point to understanding the historical and scientific importance of the Royal Gunpowder Mills. The interactive exhibition is the best way to understand the history surrounding the site and the science behind gunpowder. The exhibition area contains a labyrinth of artefacts, displays and interactive video games explaining how gunpowder and later chemical propellants were discovered, refined and manufactured. It brings both the site, and the people who worked there, alive and allows visitors to understand the buildings and processes they can explore around the 170 acre site.


Book Tickets Online



  • Accessible Lift - All the publically accessible buildings on the site are ground floor accept the main exhibition building where there is an accessible lift.
  • All Areas Accessible to Disabled Visitors - All the publically accessible buildings on the site are ground floor accept the main exhibition building where there is an accessible lift. As this is a heritage site, there is some uneven ground but most areas and buildings are wheel chair accessible as is the Land Train which conducts guided tours of the whole site.
  • Disabled Parking
  • Disabled persons toilet
  • Parking Areas for Disabled Visitors
  • Ramp / Level Access
  • Wheelchair user accessible - All the publically accessible buildings on the site are ground floor accept the main exhibition building where there is an accessible lift. As this is a heritage site, there is some uneven ground but most areas and buildings are wheel chair accessible as is the Land Train which conducts guided tours of the whole site.

Attraction Facilities

  • Groups Accepted


  • Cafe
  • Catering for groups
  • Catering Provided
  • On-Site cafe/restaurant
  • Outdoor eating area
  • Picnic area
  • Picnic Site

Children & Infants

  • Family Friendly, Children Welcome
  • Outdoor children’s play area

Establishment Features

  • All weather attraction - Although we hold special events which take place outdoors, our main exhibitions are under cover and the site can be visited via our covered land train or military truck experience.
  • Guided tours
  • Guided tours by arrangement - Visitors who have a specific interest in a particular aspect of the history or processes or items exhibited at the Royal Gunpowder Mills, can arrange to have a volunteer guide with relevant knowledge available when they visit. This is by arrangement and dependant on the relevant expertise being available.
  • Marquee Space Available
  • Open on bank holidays
  • Special Opening for Groups by Arrangement
  • Team / Corporate Activities

Parking & Transport

  • Bus stop within walking distance
  • Coach parking
  • Free parking
  • On Site Car Parking
  • On site parking
  • Parking (free)
  • Secure cycle parking - The car park includes an open, but covered cycle parking area.

Provider Preferences

  • Countryside Setting
  • Forest Location - The large site includes unique Alder plantation and associated wildlife. The whole site can be visited by the Land Train or Military Truck Experience.
  • In town/city centre - The site is on the outskirts of Waltham abbey, itself a historic market town.
  • Indoor Attraction - The main exhibition, armoury and rocket collection, plus Professor Nitrates Mad Lab are all indoors.
  • Outdoor Attraction - The Royal Gunpowder Mills is a very large unspoilt site with areas designated of special scientific interest (SSIs). The dangerous nature of gunpowder manufacture, and the later chemical explosives, made it sensible to space buildings apart. So the industrial processes can be explored within a natural environment. Trees were allowed to flourish between the buildings as they provided an additional safety barrier should an explosion occur in a building, and canals link all parts of the site.

Specialist Features

  • Cyclists welcome
  • Educational Groups - The Royal Gunpowder Mills has a dedicated education team and regularly delivers a range of programmes for local schools.
  • Family Fun
  • Marketed Towards Children - Children love Professor Nitrates Mad Lab shows.
  • Marketed Towards Families
  • Marketed Towards Senior Citizens
  • Marketed towards student/youth
  • Marketed Towards Students / Youth

Tours and Demonstrations

  • Demonstrations Given
  • Educational Visits Accepted - The Royal Gunpowder Mills has a dedicated education team and regularly delivers a range of programmes for local schools.
  • Guided Tours Available for Groups
  • Guided Tours Available for Individuals - The Royal Gunpowder Mills is lucky to have an army of knowledgeable volunteers who can answer technical (and not so technical) questions and bring the past and processes alive. Some of the volunteers are past employees. The land train tours of the site include guides who explain the history of the site, its buildings and the processes which went on there.

Map & Directions

Road Directions

The Royal Gunpowder Mills is located in Beaulieu Drive, off Highbridge Street (at traffic lights and opposite McDonalds), a ten minute walk from the centre of Waltham Abbey. The entrance is at top north end of Beaulieu Drive.

There is free parking 

From J26 of M25, take A121 to Waltham Abbey; or from J25 of M25 go to Waltham Cross and then A121.

Public Transport Directions

By Bus 

The site is just a 10 minute walk from Waltham Abbey Town Centre.

Nearest bus stops in Highbridge Street are served by the following local buses:

21, 212, 213, 240, 250, 251, 255, 505, 517.

By Rail

Nearest station is Waltham Cross, connecting London Liverpool Street or Tottenham Hale underground (Victoria Line) to/from Cheshunt/Broxbourne/Hertford East.

We are a 25 minute walk east from the station.

You may also take a bus or a cab (office at station).

The Royal Gunpowder Mills Smeaton Celebrations this Sunday

Type:Heritage & History

Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 1JY

Tel: 01992 707370

Fax: 01992 707372

Opening Times

Royal Gunpowder Mills Smeaton Celebration (14 July 2024)

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