Sunday 17 February 2013

North Prospect School Air Raid Shelters

During the regeneration of North Prospect in Summer of last year, another two WWII air raid shelters were discovered within days of each other during demolition work on the school. Last documented in 1989, when work on a new playground was halted after groundworkers broke through a roof section of the southern shelter, the smaller of the two, but this time round the larger north shelter had been uncovered too & archaeologists from Exeter were able to document both before their demolition. We managed to grab some exclusive photos from the southern shelter only & what follows is our account, with some fantastic graffiti from the period but very little artefacts left lying around.

Filled in stairwell of the original entrance

Infill through one of the escape hatches

Making the way through to the next section

Section of shelter with roof collapse & toilet cubicles

As you can see, this was one of the squarer type of construction with the precast sections & girders fitted additionally for extra strength at a later date. Some of the girders were found to have a combination British Steel & Earl of Dudley Steel markings on them indicating these were manufactured in the Midlands, although it is thought the concrete sections originate from quarries in Cornwall. One section of the shelter had suffered major roof collapse near to one of the toilet blocks.

Looking down a section of shelter with the passageway to the right leading to entrance

Torchlight shines from the distant passageway

A view showing the steel girders added for extra strength

Crumbling sandstone from the walls of the shelter

Earl of Dudley Steel girder section

The graffiti varied from child's drawings to adult humor & rude sketches, some of which would have shocked the schoolkids of the time & I wonder if the drawings came from older teenagers or adults. Maps of the 2 shelters were sketched onto one section, an almost cartoon sketch of Winston Churchill adorned another, name calling & random signatures could be found in other areas on the walls. For it's size, it contained a fair amount of graffiti & we documented what we could find in the time that we had.

Barrage balloon & banter



Shelter map

Name calling scirbbled out

More examples of name calling

Sir Winston

Pat Brookes

Luftwaffe aircraft

Mary had a little lamb....the rude version 1940's style

No.2 Class Section
Candle with pin through found atop a girder just inside the entrance to the shelter

Although the pencil sketches were great in number, the artefacts were much fewer with by far the best being a candle made of pigs fat with a pin through for the holder. This was found on top of the girder immediately next to the entrance. This would have seen use during the raids no doubt. We were told a couple of years before they were uncovered that there was a shower block in one of the shelters but looking the archaeologist's plans, there was no evidence to support this. 

Shelter sections piled up awaiting disposal from the northern playground shelter

Another view of the shelter sections

Notice the heras fencing in the foreground covering the exposed sections of air raid shelter in the northern playground

A few days later, we were passing on a lunch break from work when we noticed a pile of shelter rubble & pulled over to grab a few photos on the camera phone, making them probably the last photos of the now demolished shelters. There we have it, another 2 have gone but how many remain is anyone's guess!

Were you a child who sheltered here during WWII? Do you have a member fo family who attended the school with memories of the Plymouth Blitz? If so please get in touch as we would appreciate any stories to add to the archives. Contact us via

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