Stockport Air Raid Shelters

DAY ZERO UPDATE

Those of you who have been following my Day Zero Project progress have probably been wondering what’s been going on these past few months. I haven’t posted an update in so long you probably thought I’d abandoned the challenge.

Well I haven’t.

Progress has slowed considerably due to other commitments but I’m still hacking away at it as and when I can. I’m about 150 days into the challenge and so far I have completed 18 challenges. Thank goodness I have until May 2014 to complete them all.

One of my challenges was to visit Stockport’s Air Raid Shelter on Chestergate. Ever since the air raid shelter opened to the public as a museum in 1996 I’ve wanted to go inside – Something I’ve told anyone who’d listen repeatedly over the years. One Saturday morning it finally happened.

16 seater toiletsAIR RAID SHELTER

When the shelters first opened in 1939, they were the largest purpose built civilian air raid shelters in the country. Four sets of underground tunnels, almost one mile in length, were carved into the natural sandstone cliffs of Stockport centre and provided shelter for 6,500 civilians during the Second World War.

The shelters were fitted with basic amenities: electric lights, benches and bunk beds, flushing 16-seater toilets, first aid post and sick bay, plus separate facilities for nursing mothers. Thanks to the “luxurious” standard of accommodation the shelters were ironically nicknamed the Chestergate Hotel. You can imagine it was fairly cosy down there.

LABYRINTH

After years of procrastination it was almost on impulse that three of us ventured inside. We couldn’t believe our luck when we discovered we had the underground labyrinth to ourselves. (It pays to go early, apparently).

After listening to an introduction in the tiny audio-visual room our guide answered our questions then disappeared leaving us alone to explore the tunnels. Of course, only the bits with the electric lighting re-installed were open. (Everything of use was stolen from the tunnels after the War – including the lights). It is possible to explore the remaining tunnels by torch-light, subject to booking, but when we were there those tunnels were temptingly locked behind big metal gates.

ARTEFACTS

Artefacts from the time, such as benches, three tier bunk beds and gas masks, have been reinstated so visitors can get a feel for what life was like during the War. My Dad remembered seeing similar artefacts growing up and appreciated seeing them in context. (“Oh, so that’s what that’s for!”)

I think our guide expected us to wander through the tunnels and be out the other side within 15 minutes or so. It’s not as though we had to queue for anything after all. We actually spent a good 90 minutes down there, soaking up the atmosphere and playing spot the motion / light sensor. Our guide was beginning to get worried.

CHRISTMAS IN THE TUNNELS

It’s too late now of course, but Stockport Air Raid Shelter had special events over the Christmas period, such as Carol singing in the tunnels, with a festive feast of wartime favourites, followed by free wine and mince pies. On other days children were invited to ‘follow the good fairy’ through the tunnels in search of Santa and were treated with 1940s wartime gifts, provided they brought a sock or stocking to put them in. I don’t know about you but I’m disappointed I didn’t go!

SEE IT YOURSELF!

I’ve written about Manchester’s underground tunnel tours before and I still think they’re worth a look, however if you only want to visit one set of underground tunnels in the area make Stockport’s Air Raid Shelter your priority. Believe me, it was £4 well spent.  

Click on the photographs to see larger (clearer) versions.

My photographs from the day are all dark and gloomy. If you’d like to see some colourful photos of Stockport’s Air Raid Shelters (Brinksway deep level shelter and Dodge Hill deep level shelter) take a look at 28dayslater – The UK UE Urbex Urban Exploration Forum.

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23 thoughts on “Stockport Air Raid Shelters

    • I’ll admit I did think of you when I was there! – Both because you live in the area and because you were enthusiastic about it when I added it to my list.

      It was so much better than I expected. It made me realise just how disappointed I was when I visited the tunnels under Manchester. The ones under Stockport are far superior (which is probably one of the reasons people swarmed from Manchester to fill the Stockport tunnels rather than sticking to their own).

      I would love to explore the other tunnels by torchlight – even though I know it’s all just the same past the iron gates as it is in front of them (but darker, much, much darker. Lol).

      I’m genuinely sorry I didn’t know about the Christmas events until it was too late. I wouldn’t hesitate to go again.

  1. Looks really interesting Sammy Dee, I wasn’t actually aware they existed which is a bit shameful. I’ve been to something similar in Vietnam and I actually got a bit claustrophobic, they used to dig big tunnels to hide in during the war. Scary stuff. It was be interesting to see British one’s and compare.

    • These ones actually felt quite spacious inside. I don’t think you’d feel claustrophobic down there. Of course, it might have helped the fact that there was only 3 of us and we had the tunnels to ourselves. 🙂 These ones aren’t scary. Quite luxurious, considering.

      I’m not too sure about the 16 seater toilets though – I think you’d only want to use the one nearest the flush and the door.

      I’d love to hear from anyone who remembers using the shelter during the War. If anyone reading this knows someone who remembers them please leave a comment!

  2. Lou you’re as daft as a brush, Vietnamese tunnels aren’t the same!!
    lol
    This sounds ace, sorry it took me so long to read it. Looks ace too, i’ve got a model on the model portfolio website who wants to shoot in forties gear with me, just thought this would make a superb setting. was it busy?
    Dave (also did you see our blog post on cutaway, just thought with you saying about follow up, Craig’s doing pie charts! bit geeky)

    • I replied to this via email didn’t I? It would be a fantastic place for a photoshoot and no, it wasn’t busy. We were the only 3 people down there. We had the whole place to ourselves.

  3. Great post! I am always fascinated by these types of places. I can’t tell you how many trips I have taken where I have ended up exploring a cave, bunker, tunnel or mine! I am also fascinated by abandoned places for some reason 🙂

    • I’m the same – Whenever I see a cave or a hole I want to explore it! Lol. I would love to be an Urban Explorer but I know I’d get caught. There are lots of abandoned buildings around the city that I’d love to go in and photograph but I’m too scared to do it.

      • Yeah you kind of have to pick you mark in regards to urban exploring. It is much easier if you are travelling overseas and doing it….”oh sorry I didn’t realise you were not allowed inside ” 😉

        • Lol. And yet my fear of getting locked up abroad where I don’t speak the language holds me back! (It’s bad enough going to hospital and not speaking the language.)

          Next time you do it you need to write about it – I’d love to hear about it and see the photos.

          • Ha, yeah well there is that minor issue 😉 I have written some posts on places like this in one of my blogs: http://deanoworldtravels.wordpress.com/ please check it out

            So far I have only ever been detained in Egypt, but that was because I refused to pay a border guard a “special fee”…..spent a couple of hours in a caged cell! Eventually had to pay the baksheesh to get on my way! 🙂 Ah the 1990’s seems so long ago….

            • Hey, I’ve been reading your blog and I promise to comment soon! (It’s been a hell of a week!)

              Oh no – I’d be so scared if I got detained! Fortunately nothing like that has ever happened to me. I recently read ‘You’ve gone too far this time sir’ by a teacher who cycled from England to India. He got caught up in loads of scrapes too. – Somehow guys seem to handle these things better. I’d just fall apart.

              • Ha, I do not know that book, I will have to check it out. I think it helps if you don’t get phased by much, being an Aussie we are pretty laid back too which is handy! 🙂

          • Overseas hospitals can be very scary! I ended up in one in Guatemala…..not clean, couldn’t speak Latin Spanish….needles, blood, unknown drugs…..anyway they treated me for free and fixed me up so all was good, but scary! (I had broken my hand, dislocated a finger and suffered some other injuries in a fall at temple in Tikal)

            • (Touch wood) The worst I’ve had is a broken foot and a suspected broken neck. Eeek! Your experiences sound scary! I’m going to have to read through everything you’ve written on your blogs to get the full stories behind these. Lol.

              Ohhh, needles, blood, unknown drugs… nightmare! I hope you weren’t travelling alone. I’m so glad that I wasn’t.

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