Factory air raid shelters are highly divergent in their size and appearance, and the group of shelters at Halstead in Essex are no different, comprising fifteen cut-and-cover 50 person shelters built in vaulted Costain precast concrete, neatly aligned like corpses on sloping ground to the north of Courtaulds’ synthetic fibre mill on the banks of the River Colne. The eight metre long shelters have entrance steps at the southern end, the end closest to the factory and to the company tenements, and laddered emergency escapes at the north end in front of narrow doors marked M and F giving access to the chemical toilets.
Unusually though the shelters on Vicarage Meadow are closer to the workers’ terraced houses on Factory Road than they are to the riverside mill, giving rise to one theory that they were built principally for the workers’ families. However the boggy nature of the ground so close to the river may have been behind the need to site semi-buried shelters slightly further away from the factory.
The shelters were in two slightly offset rows of five and ten shelters apiece, and were accompanied by an above ground structure which has been interpreted variously as a radio station or as a ARP warden’s shelter, and which has the remains of a Morrison shelter inside it.
Courtaulds made nylon which was used to make parachutes, barrage balloon and even dinghies during the war.
Wartime recollections are available at Halstead 21st Century.