HOME Air Raid Shelters Index      

 

STOURBRIDGE GAS WORKS AIR RAID SHELTER

Plan

Plan of the air raid shelter on the site of the Stourbridge Gasworks, in High Street, Amblecote.

The shelter was dug in 1939, just before the Second World War, for workers at the gasworks. The shelter is dug into a sandstone cliff face - the result of sand quarrying in the past - and are about 30 feet below the top surface.

The shelter is accessed by a single tunnel, 30 feet long, and has two sloping doors, the first about 6 feet in, sloping towards the gasworks, and the second about 13 feet in, sloping away from the gasworks.

At the end of the entrance tunnel is a cross tunnel, to the left is a tunnel 19 feet long protected by a third, upright, door. Inside the door, on the right, is a chamber about 20 feet deep and about 5 feet wide. This chamber has no seats cut into the side walls. Was this a store room, or perhaps a first aid room ?

To the right, the tunnel runs 38 feet to a left turn, off the left wall are cut 3 chambers about 17 feet deep and about 5 feet wide. These three chambers have seats cut into the side walls.

At the left turn, the tunnel proceeds almost 40 feet to a vertical shaft rising to the upper surface. The shaft is about 3 feet wide at the bottom, lined with a 26 inch diameter steel tube, and with a steel rung ladder to the surface. Also in the shaft are several steel pipes, one about 4 inches diameter, may have been an air supply from the surface. There were also several lengths of half inch copper piping, but no evidence of water usage in the tunnels. The shaft is capped off about 28 feet up, and at some point concrete has been poured down the shaft almost sealing the shaft from the tunnel. There is about an 18 inch gap between the concrete and the tunnel roof, which gives access to the shaft.

Just around the left turn, the tunnel has a 4th chamber, of a similar size to the other three, on the right hand side. At the end of the tunnel are two alcoves on the right, maybe the start of two more chambers ?

There is no evidence of any electric lighting, but throughout the tunnels are niches with soot marks above, suggesting the use of candles. As the tunnels were open from the demolition of the gasworks until the site was purchased for building, the soot may have been from candles used by local youths who were known to frequent the tunnels for various youthful purposes. The entrance was fitted with a steel mesh gate by the developers late in 2005.

Height throughout the shelter is uniform at approximately 76 inches, width of tunnels is approximately 32 inches throughout. Chamber lengths vary between 16 feet 6 inches and 17 feet 10 inches, the first chamber to the right is 80 inches wide, with seats 24 inches wide and 15 inches high. The other chambers are approximately 60 inches wide, with the seats 14 inches wide and 14 inches high. Was the first chamber for the bosses?

Pic1

This photograph shows the cliff face, with concrete slabs put in position to retain the sand falling off the cliff due to erosion. Much material was removed from the contaminated site, and the ground level was lowered by several feet. The pallet was to gain access to the tunnel, which is protected by a heavy steel mesh gate.

Pic2

This is the gate to the tunnels, which is covered in a heavy one inch steel mesh. The sand had to be removed from in front of the gate before it could be opened, and there was a step down into the tunnel of about a foot.

Pic3

Just inside the entrance were two doors, the first leaning outwards, and the second leaning inwards. Remains of the frames can be seen on the walls.

These may well have been 'gas doors', whilst a solid outer door, where the gate is, would have at one time been in place.

Pic4

This is the tunnel to the north (left) at the junction at the end of the entrance tunnel. The wooden door frame can be seen on the left, and to the right is the 'north' chamber. This is larger than the others, and is without seats cut into the walls.

Note the length of pipe on the floor, was this part of a ventilation system in case of a gas leak ?

Pic5

This is the inside of the north chamber, no seats, was it a first aid room ?

Pic6

Tunnel going south. on the right can be seen the entrance tunnel, and opposite is a shallow alcove.

The first chamber is to the left, just at the edge of the light area.

Pic7

Inside the first chamber, signs of 'party' activity can be seen on the floor.

The inside of the next two chambers were similar, with bottles and glasses to be found on the floor and seats.

Pic8

This is the tunnel going east at the end of the south tunnel. The vertical shaft is at the end of this tunnel. More pipes on the floor.

On the right of the tunnel, just behind where the photograph was taken, was another chamber, similar in size and layout to the previous chambers.

Pic9

This is the end of the east tunnel and shows the concrete sloping up to the bottom of the shaft. The concrete was just over four feet thick at the bottom of the shaft.

Pic10

Looking up the steel lined shaft showing the ladder and pipe, which may have carried a 'ventilation' pipe (and others?) from the top surface.