Report - Coulsdon Deep Public Air Raid Shelter, Cane Hill, South London - October 2015

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Bertie Bollockbrains

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Sep 1, 2014
It's been done millions of times over the years, but thought should put a quick report up to spread the word that after a long time sealed it's now all systems go go go for this site.

Thanks to kkj whose recent report alerted me to this place now being open.

Whilst I'm at it, went to the shelter at Deepdene afterwards, and unless I'm being an idiot (highly probable), that place is sealed.


It is believed that the Coulsdon shelter was constructed in 1941 by the Coulsdon and Purley Urban District Council (the precursor of the London Borough of Croydon): a reference in the minutes of the council’s War Emergency Committee dated 11th March 1941, reads: ‘Read letter from London Civil Defence Region, dated 5th March, stating that the Regional Commissioners approve payment of the sum of £1 per annum being the agreed rental for the use of land forming part of the site of the Cane Hill Mental Hospital for the erection of a public air raid shelter.’ The proximity of the shelter to a railway station was undoubtedly deliberate such that shelterers could reach it via public transport. At the present time very little is known about the operation of the shelter during the war.

After the war, in the 1950s and early 1960s, the shelter was occupied by Cox, Hargreaves and Thomson Ltd, a firm which manufactured optical instruments, the constant year-round temperature being perfect for precision engineering. Documentation left in the tunnels by this firm and discovered in the late 1960s or early 1970s helpfully included reports which described the site; one was by Cox, Hargreaves and Thomson with the other by Craig, Hall and Co. Chartered Surveyors on behalf of Cox et al and presumably to inform their potential occupancy decision. Extracts from both include descriptions, dimensions and an explanation of the original use of some sections of tunnels; for example the east gallery (north) was the canteen, the east gallery (south) housed lavatories and the north bay of the central gallery housed the Warden’s office. The poor condition of the shelter prior to the firm’s tenancy was also recorded including vandalised plumbing, decayed timber and water ingress. From these documents we also know that the chamber at the north end of the first transverse tunnel housed a large polishing machine capable of dealing with mirrors up to 80’’ in diameter, with the whole length of the transverse tunnel available for testing. We are also told that externally a cutting had been excavated in the 1940s to serve as a roadway giving access to the three entrances.


Above ground the tunnels were originally accessed from the south-east via three adit entrances, two of which – the north-east and south-west tunnels – were entered from a lateral roadway in a cutting which was constructed to allow access. The central tunnel extends further to the south-east through an earthen blast bank, beyond which is a level area believed to have been used for parking.

Underground the tunnels are laid out on a grid system oriented north-west to south-east. The three aforementioned tunnels are crossed at right angles by two parallel transverse tunnels, plus a number of additional chambers. The three entrance tunnels are all dog-legged at their south-eastern ends, the central (and presumably principal) entrance being the most complex in plan. This tunnel also has a short cross-spur between the two transverse tunnels and terminates in a C-shaped arrangement at the base of a ventilation shaft at its north-west end. At the northern terminal end of the first (most easterly) transverse tunnel is a chamber 30’ long, 10’ wide and 10’ high (all dimensions from historical documentation). The central tunnel is 240’ long and the transverse tunnels 235’ long.

The tunnels are in the main 9’ high by 7’ wide (all dimensions from historical documentation) and are brick-lined with vaulted roofs.

Some remnants of machinery from the optical works remain in situ as do various rusting machinery parts. Throughout the tunnels there are also occasional survivals of original lighting, including Bakelite fittings, and plumbing.


A clue that you're near

This graffiti near the entrance has been here for years




Machinery left behind

Random bicycle remains


And a lawnmower

And cogwheels

Tractor wheels?

Be careful once you get into this storage area, asbestos is present


Looking up the ventilation shaft at the back of the shelter

Finally, there's been a rave in here and the DJ stage remains. Lots of Nitrous oxide cylinders litter the ground.

Thanks for reading


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Apr 8, 2010
Very nice pics there mate! Great report. I just got into Deepdene bunker tonight! writing up report now

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