Monday 2 July 2012

Devonport Park Air Raid Shelters Part 2 - The Buried Time Capsule

Site Visited - April 2009

What is written below is the original 2009 account of the second installment of the air raid shelters in Devonport Park. At the age of around 10-12 (a long time ago), myself & a couple of mates used to walk down a disused railway line close to my Auntie's in Grimsby, to a piece of wasteland & derelict buildings from the days when huge cooling towers stood on the site of a power station. After several visits in the school holidays exploring our new playground, a little bit of scrabbling around in rubble led us to uncover an underground space - needless to say when we all arrived home that evening we were covered head to toe in dust.

That was my first real explore of a buried structure which turned out to be a WWII Stanton Type air raid shelter, strewn with broken benches & personal items like work boots. A little bit of cleaning up over the holidays & it became our new den that stayed hidden for a good year until another group of kids noticed us going in & it was no longer a secret. That stayed with me for life but I never ever thought that I would be doing something like that in my late thirties!

If you missed the first part of the discoveries at Devonport Park, click here to get the full picture.

Whilst the part demolition of the first shelter was taking place, we focused our attention on what was thought to be a second lying only a few feet away & although still buried, a section of concrete had been exposed. A small hole, where the electric cabling ran through a clay pipe to the adjoining shelter, provided us with the opportunity to insert a camera enabling us to get a glimpse of what lay behind. Here is the image of what we excitedly found....

....the first view confirming the existence of the second shelter, unseen & untouched for over 60 years. Underneath all the mud & rubble there would have been steps leading up & out into the park, this being the original entrance which was demolished not long after World War II. Here is the view from the outside.....

The huge mound of earth was the only obstacle preventing access to this shelter & this was to be used as infill for the neighbouring one, therefore exposing a little more of the original roof of the entrance. With concerns for the fate of this shelter & inspired by local residents who expressed their dismay in witnessing the previously discovered one being destroyed, a well thought plan was put together with the aim of documenting the buried passageways. Two weeks later the team was stood inside this WWII time capsule & being the first people to walk it's passageways since the late 1940's felt quite surreal. Within minutes we realised this was a smaller shelter being only one square section as opposed to two, & this would have been designed to hold around 200 people.

 The first look from inside the infilled entrance

Looking back on the infilled entrance


Cabling hangs from the roof, & corrugated sheet on the floor that was probably used for some blast shielding at the entrance to the shelter

1940's portrait

This meant something to the artist, but what does it portray?

Original light fittings

Translated as MC Drant May 29, 1944 2.35am Monday

Coin & marble artefacts

Looking down one of the passageways. The rubble in the mid section is from where the escape hatch would have been, & cables have fallen from their wooden fixings

Almost 2 hours was spent documenting the dimensions, graffiti, artefacts, & also observing a minutes silence in complete darkness in memory of the people who sought refuge there & are not with us today. It was then resealed with the hope that this wouldn't suffer the same fate as the one previously discovered. Only time would tell whether or not officials would eventually enter & survey this shelter to make a decision as to whether it was worthy enough to preserve.

Keep following for further developments!


  1. Try contacting the custodians of the Victoria Tunnel, Newcastle upon Tyne for help and ideas for preservation. This was a 19th Century tunnel originally used to transport coal underneath the city for several miles, but later used as a WW2 air raid shelter. It was recently partly opened to the public with lighting but pretty much as it was left after WW2 with a few artefacts, cabling and markings. These are amazing and unique places that need preservation. Good luck with yours!

  2. I'm interested in the transportation of coal .Was it to the dockyard and shipping. Barbara Marlow