Whitgift School is known to have had underground air raid shelters for 200 pupils during WW2. The school is surrounded by playing fields and a number of shelters were probably spaced out around the school building
One trench shelter is currently accessible to the south east of the main school building; this would have seated approximately 30 people. It therefore follows that there must have been six or seven similar shelters. A similar shelter was discovered during the building of an extension but this has now been destroyed. Despite an extensive search of the school grounds there is no evidence of any further shelters.
A trench shelter is constructed by excavating a trench which is then lined with concrete. It is then roofed over with concrete slabs and finally the earth cover is reinstated. They are often clearly visible with a raised earth mound indicating the position of the shelter but in the existing example at Whitgift School the shelter is completely below ground and all that can be seen on the surface is two square steel manhole covers flush with the ground. Similar shelters are visible in public parks all over the country.
One of the manhole covers can be lifted revealing a sloping step ladder. Opposite the bottom of the ladder is a small recess that would have housed a chemical toilet, there would have been a sacking curtain for privacy. The shelter is through a doorway to the right of the ladder and consists of a rectangular concrete chamber 8.3 metres long and 1.5 metres wide.
There would have been a wooden bench seat along each wall but only the concrete supports for these now remain.
At the opposite end of the chamber is a mirror image of the entrance with another sloping step ladder, toilet recess and a sealed manhole cover. There are small vents at ceiling level in the main chamber and electrical wiring indicating that the shelter had lighting.
Shelters of this type are usually entered by a flight of steps protected by a blast wall at one end with an emergency exit at the other end consisting of a vertical ladder and a ventilated manhole cover. The example at Whitgift School is unusual as both ends were used for access.
The shelter is a little damp but generally in good internal condition.