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SHELTER SURPRISE: Air raid shelters uncovered at Berkhamsted school development

 Published on: 2nd August 2023   |   By: Darius Morgan   |   Category: Uncategorized

Archaeologists have uncovered Second World War air raid shelters at the site of a school development in Berkhamsted.

Works are ongoing on a new Berkhamsted School Sixth Form centre, which is expected to open on their Castle Campus in 2024.

During the redevelopment, experts Icknield Archaeology unearthed evidence of a series of air raid shelters that are believed to date back to 1940/41. Each is believed to have had the capacity to hold up to 35 people, in what would have been “very cramped conditions”.

Dr Jonathan Hunn, co-founder of Icknield Archaeology, said: “The big fear at this period was attack using poison gas. During the war, there would have been fire drills and classes would have stopped immediately; they would have all filed out to their designated air raid shelters. There is no historical evidence other than some letters that these things ever existed. This is a part of the town’s history and part of the school’s history.”

Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society states that “Berkhamsted was fortunate in that it did not suffer great loss of life during the Second World War”. However, there is evidence of a bombing of the railway bridge at the bottom of Ivy House Lane in November 1940.

Also uncovered at the Castle Campus site were remnants of an “unexpected” medieval building, 19th century gasworks, and fragments of pottery from the 12th-14th century.

Dr Hunn added: “I think the most dramatic thing is probably the air raid shelters. People might say ‘that’s not very old’; well, no it isn’t, but we’re only a moment in time, and if you don’t record these they never existed. And clearly they did, and for [that] generation, they would have a had a real impact on their lives.”

You can watch Dr Hunn at the site on Berkhamsted School’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds31lUTLGcA

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