Tuesday 25 September 2012

"The Wall" Public Air Raid Shelter Part 2

Well you got the brief tour of the "The Wall" ARP Shelter & here we look at some of the graffiti & artefacts found within alongside a few surprises above ground. To kick off though, we want to focus on that one brick in "The Wall".

P.L.D. 10 Years 13/1/1941 

The person who etched this into the brick toilet cubicle would now be 81 years old & we are guessing it is a male. We urge all readers to check their families for the initials & help to identify the writer. Hey, we know it's a long shot but we like to search really deep for our research & build a better history for the shelters that form an important part of our heritage. We have tracked a family from other graffiti in the past, one being from the Devonport Park shelter that was partly demolished back in 2009. Writings in this shelter have given us some leads to work on including an address in Mount Gould Road.

The best we have to go on!

Any takers on this one?

Inscription found in another toilet block

One of two face drawings found close to each other

Face art

Character drawings

Mister Sad


Striking chin feature in this drawing

Contractor says fire engine, archeaologist says bus, we say it's a tram - How about you? Send us a comment below!

Although there was little graffiti, it was some of the most interesting. Clearly there were signs that the shelter had been whitewashed with a second coat at some point due to the way that some of the pencil markings were showing through & again highlights just how clean this shelter was. Whoever was in charge of it certainly took pride in it's appearance. Thankfully there were just a few artefacts that were left behind at various points along the underground passageways.

Artefacts found close to the entrance

Rusted, almost disintegrated bucket

Bottles from the wartime era

Bottled in Exeter

Bakealite junction boxes for electric lighting

Bench fixings void of timber seats

Bakealite fittings

Now personally for me, apart from the etched brick, the highlight was what the shelter was cut into above ground. Evidence of the Plymouth Leat was what the archeaologist's were said to be looking for & also the original cobbled surface of the car park had been revealed as see in the photos below. This shows how sympathetic the demolition has been of this shelter, a behind the scenes look at how little damage was done to the original structure itself. An escape hatch had been exposed & there were a couple of exploratory holes cut through the roof, but most impressive was the stairwell that had been throughly cleaned by contractors in preparation for the documentation to take place. 

This was always one of those shelters that would be demolished due to the need for development within the city centre, but at least it has been documented in a way that Plymothians can now see for themselves that it is not always wanton destruction of heritage. We were impressed with how thoughtful the contractors & Uni staff were toward the shelter & taking time to tell us their views on it's existence. A lot of people thought that this shelter was long demolished since the war, & it's highly possible that this was just infilled quickly & re-tarmaced before the end of the war & returned to it's use as a car park but, with all the madness of rebuilding the blitzed city it's highly possible that documents were lost along the way.

Stood atop the entrance to the shelter with Plymouth Museum in the background
Entrance overlooked by the Link & Davy Building

A different angle over the entrance

Original cobbled road that the shelter was constructed through

Stood on top of the shelter showing depth, cobbled road & contractors exploratory hole

Close up looking the cobble surface
Stood with our back to the previous image looking midway along the shelter & exposed escape hatch

Shelter looking toward the infilled end - notice the stone walls that the shelter has cut through

This section of the shelter cut through some sort of stone walling - could this be a trace of the leat?
Surveying the site stood atop the section that had yet to be uncovered fully above ground

There it is & we also made a short video tour of the shelter which will be uploaded soon for you to follow the passageways to the end. On a personal note this was an excellent shelter to document with the different layers of history around it & particularly pleased to see how the passageways cut though the cobbled road.

A lot of feedback has been received since the first photos appeared & we welcome feedback from as many people as possible, after all it is your support that will eventually lead to one of these time capsules to be saved. As we have already mentioned, many people had thought this one had long gone years ago so with the groundworks for a much needed new University building imminent, it would have suffered major setbacks if the shelter were to be kept & plans changed to adapt. Given better hindsight, if it could have been integrated into the new building as a permanent historic feature it would certainly have been one of the most interesting campus buildings in the world, food for thought!

1 comment:

  1. I looked at the site on Tuesday and although the shelter had been broken through along the length of your photos, the final section leading undergound at its northern end was clear for anyone to see (through gaps in the safety fence).

    A fascinating find.

    As to the graffiti vehicle, I would draw attention to the bonnet at the left hand end. For me, that narrows it down to either a bus, noting the windows on the lower deck, or a fire engine, with what looks like a ladder on the roof. Sorry, it ain't a tram.

    But one final thought. Some wartime cities had buses that were converted to run on town gas, to conserve precious stocks of oil. These had large gas bags on the roof that would gradually deflate as the gas was used up. They would have been held up with some sort of racking. I don't know whether Plymouth had any of these, but if they did, then this could be a gas powered bus - a real rarity!