Site Records

SiteName: Belsize Park Deep Level Air-Raid Shelter

Haverstock Hill
OS Grid Ref: (Southern entrance) TQ275850

Sub Brit site visit 27th January 2000

[Source: Nick Catford]

The Bombings of 1940 forced a reappraisal of deep-shelter policy and at the end of October the Government decided to construct a system of deep shelters linked to existing tube stations. London Transport was consulted about the sites and required to build the tunnels at the public expense with the understanding that they were to have the option of taking them over for railway use after the war. With the latter point in mind, positions were chosen on routes of possible north-south and east-west express tube railways. It was decided that each shelter would comprise two parallel tubes 16 foot 6 inches internal diameter and 12,000 feet long and would be placed below existing station tunnels at Clapham South, Clapham Common, Clapham North, Stockwell, Oval, Goodge Street, Camden Town, Belsize Park, Chancery Lane and St. Pauls.

It may be assumed that at these points the deep-level express tubes would have no stations as the diameter was too small. Each tube would have two decks, fully equipped with bunks, medical posts, kitchens and sanitation and each installation would accommodate 9,600 people.

All the deep level shelters were sub-divided into sleeping areas. Each tunnel was divided into 4 sections with connecting doors between them. Each section was given a name. At Belsize Park the northern entrance sections (i.e. those accessed directly from the northern lift without crossing to the other side) were named: Godley, Baden-Powell, Frobisher, Ashurst, Scott, Livingstone, Rhodes & Kimberley while those accessed from the southern entrance were: Cook, Hudson, Dampier, Jameson, Milner, Vancouver, Phillip, Wolfe. Only one tunnel (accessed from the northern entrance) was ever used as a shelter. Each section had bunks fitted longditudanally along the outer wall, a single at the top, a double in the middle and a single at the bottom. Along the inner wall bunks were fitted across the passage forming bays. There were 4,380 bunks in total and each bunk was allocated to a named person. If they didn't turn up one night the bunk remained unused. The southern tunnel was reserved for other, unrecorded government uses. (PRO file HO205/191-82364)

After the war, various uses were found for the Government deep shelters, including the storage of documents

For a more detailed history of the London deep shelters see here.

Photo:The southern entrance at the junction of Downside Crescent and Haverstock Hill
Photo by Nick Catford

Like most of the Deep Level Shelters at the surface, Belsize Park consists of two circular turrets, which give access to a lift shaft and spiral staircase down to the twin tunnels below. The northern entrance is behind 210 Haverstock Hill, NW3 at the end of a drive alongside Flourstalk Florists. It's within a small compound that is used as a car park by the data storage company who now lease the tunnels from London Underground. This entrance also serves as the emergency access point. The main structure is the concrete turret, now painted white with small brick extensions on two sides, which were the original doors. A square brick structure on top of the turret is the ventilation intake shaft with the open exhaust shaft 10 yards in front of the turret surrounded by corrugated iron sheeting. There is a door in one side with a metal beam, which could have been used with a rope and pulley for lowering heavy items into the tunnels below. A few yards to the west is a low concrete structure with a trap door ion the top. This was probably a fuel tank. (A modern circular ventilation shaft nearby serves Belsize Park tube station)

Plan of Belsize Park Deep Shelter

The southern entrance is at the junction of Haverstock Hill and Downside Crescent and is used for access by the data storage company. It consists of a similar circular turret with a brick ventilation intakes shaft on the roof and brick extensions on two sides for the entrances. The exhaust ventilation shaft comes up into a 25-foot high brick tower in the yard to the rear of the turret. There is a door into the bottom of the tower. To the east there is a low rectangular structure with a trap door, which was probably a fuel tank.

Photo:Top of the lift shaft in the northern entrance
Photo by Nick Catford

Inside the northern turret the original entrances have been bricked up with two steps leading to a sliding metal grille and then a brick wall with a small window in the top. There is a sink at the bottom of the steps. The circular turret has the lift shaft running down the centre, which also acts as the ventilation intake shaft through the raised brick blockhouse with ventilation louvres on the roof. A circular corridor runs around the top of the lift shaft with two stairways winding down around it, one leading to the upper landing and the other to the lower landing 140 feet below. The stairs to the lower landing are out of use and accessed through a trap door on the floor. The lift is in working order though rarely used. At the bottom of the lift shaft on the upper landing there was no lighting, as the wiring in this part of the tunnels is considered unsafe. Turning right leads first to the extract fan and then into the switchgear room.

At he back of the room is another small room containing the transformer for powering the lift and beside it a metal cabinet containing a mercury arc rectifier.

Photo:Plant room with mercury arc rectifier
Photo by Nick Catford

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

Home Page
Last updated: Tuesday, 04-Jan-2011 14:55:33 GMT
© 1998-2002 Subterranea Britannica