Factory Shelters in Halstead

There is a remarkable area of woodland just to the east of Halstead High Street which contains natural springs, a Victorian garden and a rare group of fifteen underground World War II air raid shelters.  The shelters were built by Courtaulds in 1939 to protect their workforce from the Luftwaffe. The factory employed around 1,000 during the war including on weaving artificial silk for parachutes and many of them lived in Courtaulds-provided houses, two terraces of which still stand on Factory Lane East, right next to the shelters. The schoolgirl pictured below lived in one of the houses, and is seen standing next to the entrance to one of the shelters, which her family would use if there was an air raid at night.

The second, much more recent, photo below is of a rather fine arch through which the workers would return to work in the morning from Factory Lane East or indeed from the shelters following a day time air raid.

   

The semi-sunken shelters were built by Costains from pre-formed concrete arches, and designed to hold up to 50 people. A separate strong brick shelter, which still stands on the surface, had several uses including as a first aid centre, a communications centre and an ARP Warden's post.

The following photos show two of the the now-overgrown shelters, a main entrance, an interior view, and an escape ladder and hatch for use if the main entrance was damaged.

   

A lively group of Halstead residents are working to save this important wartime and industrial heritage, and to ensure the sympathetic development of the surrounding woodland. You can find out more by accessing the website of the Halstead 21st Century Group .

Larger versions of the photos of the archway, the interior and the escape ladder may be seen if you click on them.

 

Martin Stanley