Anderson Shelter near the Oval

The shelter at the back of a house in Richborne Terrace, near the Oval Cricket Ground in Central London, is still in good condition, including the frames of the bunk beds on which families tried to sleep during air raids. This shelter has survived nearly 80 years partly because the owner of the house - Mr H L Sutton - was a builder and decorator who decided to set the corrugated iron roofs in a substantial concrete base.

Here are some photos:

The next two photos show interesting detail. The first is of the wartime maker's mark (or utility stamp?) which was imprinted on much corrugated iron produced during the war, perhaps to show that it was price-controlled. The top line reads BRITISH MAKE but then there is an image of a sheep, above the word MERINO, which is of course a type of sheep. The bottom line is HO (for Home Office) with a simple image of a crown between the two letters. Click here to see photos of other stamps.

The second photo shows the emergency exit at the back of the shelter, for use if the doorway became blocked by rubble. The two (now rusty) vertical pieces of iron at the bottom of the rear wall of the shelter were each held in place by a single bolt which could be removed - if you had remembered to keep the appropriate spanner in the shelter! The central piece of corrugated iron could then be removed allowing the occupants to claw their way out through the earth which would have been piled against the rear of the shelter. A photo on my homepage shows a similar exit from the reconstructed shelter in Biggin Hill.

Not all the shelters in Richborne Terrace survived even the war - and nor did their occupants. The result of one bombing was recorded, in words and a picture, by local civil defence worker Stanley Rothwell:

There was a vast crater with bodies of women and children strewn in the rubble around its edge, the shelter they had occupied had gone sky high ....... We got busy shrouding the dead and mangled bodies ...... We tried to check the number of people involved but found that there were some missing .....

We found them the following morning lying some hundreds of yards away on some waste ground spread-eagled like taylors dummies; they had been tossed there by the blast, heads and limbs missing.

Mr Rothwell's painting of the incident is in the Imperial War Museum and is reproduced above with their kind permission. It shows an Anderson shelter after a direct hit. Mr Rothwell is on the left accompanied by his colleague Benny Cunningham. It is interesting that Mr Rothwell's son subsequently went to work in the War Museum.


Mr Sutton's telephone number was Reliance 2399.  The Reliance telephone exchange in due course became 01 735 ... and later 020 7735 ... as 735 was the numerical equivalent of REL.  Mr Sutton's works were at 15 Bedford Rd, London N15. 

Click here to read more about the bombing of the Vauxhall and Oval areas.