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Report - London Road Shelter, Portsmouth 05/01/10

Discussion in 'Underground Sites' started by Rookinella, Jan 28, 2010.

  1. Rookinella

    Rookinella I should have danced all night
    28DL Full Member

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    Visited with Speed.

    Bonza! Glad this one's open again. This was our last destination of the day after doing Haslar Hospital and Portsdown Main. Rigsby and I went here about two years ago after having a bash at Graylingwell and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The shelter is massive and if you look closely, you can see little gems in the details. There's lots of vintage crisp packets crumbling away in the nooks and grannies.

    Here's some history I found on a website about the local area:


    It's dark, damp and claustrophobic. But an area underneath Portsdown Hill
    played an important role in Portsmouth's history. It was in these long tunnels, dug beneath the hill, that thousands of residents sought refuge from wartime bombs raining down on the city.
    Today, these subterranean shelters still exist – yet many people don't know anything about them or the vital part they played in protecting men, women and children during the Second World War.
    There were two key air raid shelters built under Portsdown Hill – the Wymering shelter and the London Road shelter.
    During the war and afterwards, the Wymering shelter received a lot of publicity, but the London Road one was almost completely ignored.
    Yet, during the 1940s, it was a home from home for many people in and around the city.

    But it was what lay hidden underneath the hill that was to really grab his attention.
    Bob's mother told him stories of her experiences during the war when she had sheltered in one of the tunnels for protection.

    When the air raid sirens sounded, people from across Portsmouth would flee their homes for the night and make their way up to the shelter to seek protection from the bombs.
    Carrying supplies such as clothes, mattresses and bedding, people would cross the fields up to the shelters at the top of the hill.
    There was enough room for 2,535 people, but numbers often stretched to double this in times of need.
    The combined length of the two shelters stretched to 1.8-miles and cost £73,298 in 1943 to construct.
    Often, there were as many as three or four air raids during one night.
    Evenings were often disturbed and many people struggled to get a good night's sleep.
    Not only was there noise from the air raids and the bombs being dropped, lights were kept on while children cried and screamed through the night.
    Inside the London Road shelter lies proof of civilian life during wartime.
    On the floor are copies of old newspapers and comics.
    Bunk beds have rotted and safety posters line the walls.
    The bunks were set out in tiers of three, in the style of those in the London Underground shelters.
    Canteen facilities were provided, with hot and cold drinks available and, for the keen smokers, there was a designated smoking area.
    The tunnel also provided entertainment for people sheltering from the war.
    There were men's and women's toilets in addition to huts and washrooms for general hygiene.
    There was also a recreation area to cater for the children if they got bored.
    Each shelter had a storage tunnel that provided a safe drinking water supply for the occupants.
    The tunnel also had a first aid room where people could be treated for accidents, infections or diseases.
    There was an isolated area for patients with infectious diseases with medical staff consisting of a medical officer and two duty nurses.
    There was no specific ventilation system – in fact it was known as natural ventilation, meaning that the tunnels were incredibly stuffy, with condensation running down the walls.
    However, there were two vertical shafts within the tunnel which provided ventilation and an emergency exit route.
    Steel ladders were provided in the shaft with platforms to avoid anyone falling and hurting themselves.
    Eventually, the Wymering shelter closed on February 5, 1945, and the London Road shelter soon followed.


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