The grandest building in the park lies to the north-west of Chestnut Avenue; it was originally built in 1685 and known as Bushy House. Having been enlarged and embellished many times, it is now the prestigious National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and managed by the government.
The history of the NPL
The NPL is not open to the public, but many people and industries benefit from its work. Established in 1900, the laboratory specialises in metrology – the study of measurement. During World War II the inventor Barnes Wallis used NPL in the early stages of creating the ‘Bouncing Bomb’, a device that would wreak devastation in the famous Dambusters raid on Germany’s industrial heartlands.
The first accurate atomic clock was produced at NPL, and it played a valuable role in the development of computing. Alan Turing designed one of the world’s first computers – known as the ‘Automatic Computing Engine’ – while working here. The processes for data communication that underly the internet were also pioneered by NPL teams from the 1960s onwards.
Tests of electromagnetic technology are conducted at NPL, fuelling innovations like 5G and autonomous vehicles. Its research has also contributed to ship and aircraft design, as well as radar.