The Hackney WW2 ARPControl Centre is located underground beneath the car park at Hackney Town Hall in Hillman Street, London, E8. The entrance is a small concrete entrance blockhouse in one corner of the car park.
There is a locked gate on each side and once inside the entrance a flight of steps descends into the ground with a 90-degree turn near the bottom. At the bottom of the stairs there was an airlock but the two doors are missing leaving only the frames in place. Once through the second doorway the bunker stretches ahead in an easterly direction for 50 feet. It consists of four rooms with an open corridor along the south wall linking them. A fifth roof, containing toilet cubicles is accessed from one of these rooms.
The first room on the left is the ventilation and filtration plant room, which is largely intact and unaltered since the bunker was constructed in 1939. There are two banks of filters made by Sutcliffe & Speakman (dated 1939) and other items of ventilation plant and ducting. Printed operating instructions are fixed to the rear of one of the filtration units. Ventilation ducting runs along the top of the north wall of the bunker from here. In the event of a power failure the pumps can be manually operated by pedal power with three purpose built ‘bicycle’ type frames mounted on concrete plinths, two at the front of the room side by side and the third at the rear. The rear ‘bicycle’ still retains its seat and drive chain.
The second room on the left has no original fittings other than a rack of wooden cupboards along the back wall. A doorway in the sidewall gives access to the toilets, which are located in four separate cubicles to the rear of the plant room. Two of the cubicles still contain ‘elsan’ style chemical toilets. The third room on the left has no original fittings and its original purpose is unknown.
The fourth and largest room was the control room and has a wooden table along the south wall and evidence of other tables now removed. Above the table are the words ‘Medical Officer of Health’ There is a message passing window to the room next door. Diagonally opposite the entrance doorway there is a short iron ladder fixed to the wall giving access to the emergency escape ‘tube’ half way up the wall. After four feet the tube turns to the right where there is a vertical shaft and ladder to a hatch still visible in the car park above. The hatch can only be opened from the inside and is operated by a lever at the bottom of the ladder.
The bunker was reactivated after the war (about 1952) as Hackney Borough Control but by 1964 it was so damp that it was deemed unusable and Hackney Control was co-located with Stoke Newington Borough Control at Stoke Newington Town Hall. In 1965 the two boroughs merged.
The bunker is still damp with two inches of water on the floor in places; it has had new lighting installed and is used to store surplus furniture, paraffin heaters and documents; one room has been fitted with Dexion shelving.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Keith Ward and Andy Wells.
- Keith Ward