Subterranea Britannica

Regent College Air Raid Shelter, Leicester

Regent Road, Leicester
OS Grid Ref: SK594034
Location:
Date of visit: February 2013

[Source: Chris Rayner]

In the centre of Leicester, the shelter at Wyggeston Girls’ School, now the sixth form only Regent College, was in the northeast corner of the gently sloping site and was completely above ground at least on two of its faces. Despite this it was reported to flood badly and had to have pumps and heaters installed in November 1940 to keep it usable. This seems to have been a problem in a number of Leicester trench shelters.

Wartime remedial works included the installation of a raised floor made out of concrete slabs, spanning between concrete joists which were embedded in the natural floor of sticky mud. Land drainage pipework was visible under one exposed section. The new floor surface appeared to have a gentle fall towards the seven west side entrances.

As with other Leicester trench shelters seen, this was built out of vertical precast concrete panels, with side ribs corresponding with the ceiling ribs. Although none of the slatted benches described by old girls remained, there were other unusual features. In particular the oversized gas curtain surround found by several of the entrances, but in each case only one per entrance was ever seen, and never a pair.

Further into the shelter some chicken-wire wrapped ventilation ducting remained together with the remains of a simple fan and the handle used to operate it manually.
Remains of a primitive wooden ladder laying on the shelter floor near one of the sealed emergency exits seemed unusual, though it is possible that this was from post-war storage.

Painted signage included “First Aid” and bay identification signage from the war years, yellow bands of possibly gas detection paint, and then roughly painted yellow arrows which have been interpreted as post-war. And throughout the shelter, electrical wiring dangled across the passages where the supporting timber cross beams had collapsed.

Affectionately known by the girls as “the Hump” when they filed out to it in wartime drills, it seems never to have been put to the test. Later after the war it had a period of use by the Fire Brigade for smoke training (who may have painted the arrows to indicate the way out) and then became a refuge for foxes. The University’s archaeologists arranged for its deconstruction as part of the final stage of their recording process, simulating in reverse its construction sequence.

The shelter was demolished in February 2013 (the photos were taken a week beforehand).

Thanks to the University of Leicester for allowing access

[Source: Chris Rayner]

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