Air Raid Shelters

As war threatened, the Council began digging trenches for protection against air raids. Amongst the first dug was at St Johns School in Roseland Road, but this was almost immediately filled in as it posed a danger to the children! (The school was later provided with a surface shelter). Extra staff were taken on to dig the trenches and a number were completed with others planned by the end of 1938. In May 1939 there was a change of direction and contracts for "the concreting and otherwise making permanent the trenches in Kenilworth" were signed.

Kenilworth is known to have had at least sixteen public and school air raid shelters constructed and several survive, more or less intact, on the perimeter of the Abbey Fields and in New Street. Of the surface shelters, one in Henry Street was used post-war by the still-existing Kenilworth Wheelers cycle club as a club room, and another in Dalehouse Lane was used by a radio club. On 12th February 1952, the Kenilworth Urban District Council agreed that Mr Castle of Mill End should be paid £90 for bricking up the entrances of the others.

In January 1969, the Council received a circular from the Home Office saying that all surviving air raid shelters were to be retained unless they were unsound, a danger to health or in the way of development. This led to those at Hyde Road (known as "unhygenic" before it was bricked up) and the Arthur Street / Spring Lane junction that was partly above ground, being demolished. The three in the Abbey Fields and at New Street were not seen as being a problem and so survived, as requested by the Home Office, in case they were again needed.

Members of the Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society have carried out some admirable research on this subject, erecting a plaque at the entrance to the shelter in Bridge Street, and I can recommend their leaflet 'Kenilworth in World War II' that includes photographs taken inside that shelter.

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 I have discovered this list of existing and planned air raid shelters, dated 15th July 1941, that includes many I had not been aware of. (list added, 2nd Dec 2016):

 

Each shelter to provide accommodation for 50 people. Existing public shelters: 

1/         Opposite the castle entrance

2/         North side of New Street in Martins fields

3/         West side of Bridge Street near traffic lights

4/         West side of Rosemary Hill near Abbey Hill

5/         North side Forrest Road near junction with Borrowell Lane

6/         West side of The Square near Borrowell Lane

7/         East side of Warwick Road near Bear & Ragged Staff

8/         East side of Warwick Road immediately north of St Johns church

9/         South side of Station Road adjoining the cinema

10/       At junction of Arthur Street and Spring Lane

11/       In arch formation under Park Hill Road, access from south side of road

 

Existing school shelters to be used in emergency:

12/       Two on south side of school, School Lane

13/       Two south side of school, Priory Road

14/       South side of school, Roseland Road

 

Proposed new shelters:

15/       Red Lane, west side near stores

16/       Crackley Hill, Coventry Road, east side and 75 yds south of railway bridge

17/       Dalehouse Lane, south side and east of entrance to Watling Road

18/       Hyde Road on north end of green

19/       Albion Street, in carriageway, on west side and about 150 yds from south entrance.

20/       Henry Street, on land on west side about half way along

21/       Arthur Street, on land on east side about 200 yds from junction with Spring Lane

22/       St Johns Street, on council land at west end of street

23/       Roseland Road, on land north side of road near top of Moorlands Avenue

24/       Moseley Road on land on west side opposite Worcester Road.

 

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Castle Green

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An apparently still accessible air raid shelter entrance at the western end of the car park outside the castle entrance, Castle Green. This is the only 'old' photograph of a shelter entrance of which I am aware. There are clear irregularities in the ground today. The Morris 1000 dates this photograph as post 1948.

 

 

Bridge Street

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This shelter in Bridge Street is the one thoroughly examined by members of the Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society. The extent of the mound covering it can be seen above the wall, covered by fallen leaves. November 2010

 

 

Rosemary Hill

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The Abbey Fields provided an ideal location to build shelters. November 2010

 

 

Forrest Road

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Again on the edge of the Abbey Fields, the entire mound is clearly visible. The shelters add an interesting modern chapter to the history of the fields. November 2010

 

 

New Street

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The New Street shelter is normally covered with vegetation, but a convenient fire has revealed much of it. November 2010

 

 

Spring Lane

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The shelter at the Spring Lane / Arthur Street junction being demolished

 

 

Station Road

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 The Station Road shelter entrance alongside the Alexandra Cinema

 

 

St Austins School

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 This shelter was in the playing field alongside St Austin's School

 

 

Other known shelters:

(Partially superseded by the list above, but retained for interest)

Dalehouse Lane     -     it was at todays junction with Finham Road, used by a radio club in 1949.

Henry Street              location uncertain, but thought to be centrally placed.

Hyde Road      -       at the southern end of the grass island.

St Johns Street           just at the point where today Guy Road starts.

St Johns School    -    a surface shelter near the sandpit 

St Nicholas School, the Blundells        at the eastern end of the playground.

St Nicholas School, School Lane     -     it is thought a shelter was cut into the natural embankment at the rear of the school

Moorlands Avenue     -     The Clarke, Cluley factory, built late 1941, included four shelters for its workforce

Upper Rosemary Hill    -    In the Council yard alongside the decontamination centre

Priory Road    -    Alongside the Ministry of Supply buildings

and:

Park Hill       -       'under the arches' at the lower end was a chosen spot for many, but not known to have had any structural additions.