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]

This consists of a very large 'valve' standing about 15 inches high and shaped like an electric light bulb. At the base are a number of horizontal glass projections containing the 'anodes', which give this device the name 'the octopus'. Both the transformer and the rectifier date from the 1940's and are still working. The rectifier emits a vivid purple glow with electric arcs jumping about inside. The rectifier works because the electric arc between a pool of mercury and the metal anode will only allow current to pass in one direction. In an 'octopus' the multi-phase transformer produces an arc which jumps from the mercury pool (cathode) to each anode in sequence.

Along one wall is a bank of fuse boxes and switches and along the other wall two long floor-standing cabinets with glass front panels containing rheostats for controlling the speed of the fan. These two cabinets, which also date from the 1940's, are now out of use.

Photo:Extract Fan
Photo by Nick Catford

Between the switchgear room and the extract fan is a large grating in the floor with a ladder leading down into the sump. At the bottom of this is a short passage leading to the bottom of the exhaust ventilation shaft. There is a very rusty trap door in the floor with water below it. Another tunnel leads to a small chamber containing pumps, partly submerged and a large tank, which may have been for sewage. Above is the bottom of the exhaust shaft and another small fan with a 15' rusty ladder to a landing above it. This gives access to a second corroded landing at the back of the extract fan. Above in the shaft is some winding gear of unknown use and above that the shaft is clear to the surface.

From the lift shaft the tunnel turns through 90 degrees with two rooms on the right hand side with a privacy wall in front of the entrance doorways. These were the ladies and gents toilets but no original fittings remain. Beyond the toilets this tunnel joins the upper deck of the first 'shelter tunnel' at right angles approximately one quarter way along the length. There are two parallel tunnels each divided into upper and lower decks. Each tunnel is partitioned into five sections with connecting doors. To the right (north) the tunnel was empty when inspected in January 2000 apart from rubbish and old shelving racks left by the previous occupier. There is a door in the end wall leading to a connecting corridor and a stairway down to the lower level. Back at the junction with the lift access tunnel, there is another cross passage linking the two parallel tunnels which ends in a short stub tunnel that once contained the medical post.

Photo:Bunks in one of the upper level shelter tunnels
Photo by Nick Catford

Turning left (south) along the first tunnel the right hand wall is lined with original metal-framed beds along its entire length, one above the other. The bottom bed being a double folding bunk while the upper bunk in the curve of the roof is single and fixed in position. Along the left hand wall are what at first glance appeared to be two lines of bunks one along the wall and one free standing a few feet into the passage. On closer inspection these appeared to be shelving constructed by a previous occupier from the original metal bed frames. A few yards along the tunnel on the left hand side is a stairway down to the lower level. Apart from the beds, this section of the tunnel is unused and unlit. (Spring 2000).

Plan of the shelter in relation to the Northern Line and surface railway lines

Aboutt half way along the full length of the parallel tunnels is another cross passage with a wide stairway leading down to the lower level and up about 20 feet, round a right angle bend to a brick wall - this was the connection through to Belsize Park Station. There appears to have been a small fire in this area at some time.

Photo:Stairs down to the lower level
Photo by Nick Catford

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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