History of Whittlesey air shelter revealed - but mystery of why an internal glazed door was used remains unsolved

PUBLISHED: 09:13 25 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:31 13 February 2020

The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES

The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES

Archant

Builders paid for the history of a World War II air raid shelter to be researched as part of a condition by Fenland Council for three houses to be built.

The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES

The shelter is behind 54 and 56 High Causeway, Whittlesey, and Rose Homes commissioned the report.

These photos were taken during the survey and form part of the historical record.

The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES

The shelter is likely to have been built during the early part of the war when the government embarked on a programme of building 'street communal shelters' for pedestrians to use during air raids.

Although Peterborough was not heavily bombed, there were minor air raids between 1940 and 1941 with the heaviest night of bombing occurring on August 10, 1942 when 250 bombs were dropped by two aircraft. Air raid warnings were sounded in Whittlesey but there is no record of the town being bombed.

The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES

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Often poorly built, the early programme for building shelters was mostly abandoned early on with people being urged to construct their own shelters with materials provided by the government.

The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES The former air raid shelter in Whittlesey whose history has been recorded prior to it being removed and houses built on the site. Picture; ROSE HOMES

"The shelter at High Causeway appears to have been one of these early home-built shelters if the inscribed date internally is accurate," says the report. "The nature of the materials, mainly pre-cast concrete slabs and beams was also seen regularly on airfield defensive structures and so are likely to have been provided by the authorities."

"Some thought appears to have been given to the construction of the shelter and its position at the far end of the owned plot of land associated with the house.

"At the time of construction, this position was in open ground, away from buildings to the west with only the cemetery to the east; a place less likely to have been targeted and out of the line of a direct bomb-strike, something which the shelter would not withstand."

Specialists who examined the shelter say an intriguing feature is the internal glazed door. Either it was added later or, as they believe, those who built the shelter had no experience or knowledge of bomb strikes.

"As such, they did not think of the dangers of the glass in the door," says the report.

"The glazed door at Whittlesey may never have become an issue that the builders thought to address."

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