The Halifax County Borough Control is uniquely located beneath the town bus garage. The depot in Skircoats Road was built in 1921 as a tram depot (later converted to busses) for Halifax Corporation. In 1969 the company became West Yorkshire PTE (Passenger Transport Executive) and is now Calderline.
When built in 1921 it included a brick vaulted basement running under three of the depot bays and the external yard. The basement was roughly triangular in shape consisting of five parallel vaulted tunnels, each one slightly longer than its neighbour. The three longer tunnels (under the depot) had a stairway into the tram bays above. The two shorter tunnels under the yard were accessed by a single stairway at one side. There is a cross corridor linking the tunnels.
From the remaining signs on doors and storage shelving it would appear that the basement was used as the company offices and archive with many files relating to the bus company still there. During the war the tunnels may have been used as a civil defence control centre either for the borough or for the company; many large companies operated their own civil defence units. In 1964 the basement was converted into the Halifax County Borough Sub-Area Control, remaining in use until the end of the Civil Defence Corps in 1968. In 1974 Halifax came under the newly formed Calderdale Council who built their own control centre at Brighouse.
The former control in Skircoats Road remained on care and maintenance through the 70’s, being refitted in 1978 but never used. Since then most of the equipment and furniture has been removed and the control centre has deteriorated badly due mainly to water seepage. In the 1990’s it was flooded to a depth of at least two feet, most of the partition walls and lining have rotted. Much of the roof lining has fallen away (revealing plastic sheeting) or is hanging down ready to fall. The bunker is in a very dangerous condition and should only be entered be experienced people properly equipped.
The three emergency stairways into the bus bays have been partially backfilled and slabbed over at the top. The forth stairway has also been blocked at the top by a new brick wall. The only access into the bunker is down a new wide stairway (probably installed during the war) from one side of the yard that enters one side of the shortest of the five parallel tunnels. There is a locked gate at the top of the stairway and as the padlock has rusted it was necessary to cut this off with bolt cutters to gain access (a new lock has now been fitted) The steps turn round through 90 degrees into the first parallel tunnel, luckily the water had receded, so it was possible to explore.
There is no indication of what most of the rooms had been used for but Calderline were able to give us a 1960’s plan showing the room layout of the control centre. At the bottom of the stairs is the first parallel vault to the right an unlined and probably unused chamber and to the left two rooms that were designated ‘Enquiries and Administration’ and ‘Radio’. The partition between the two rooms has now gone and the area has been used to store redundant equipment from the depot. Ahead is the original stairway (now blocked) to the surface and on the wall a WW2 sign reminding people to turn the lights off.
Beyond these stairs double doors lead through into the second parallel vault. To the left is the ‘Area Control Operations Room’ where a couple of laminated maps still remain together with some furniture. To the right is a narrow corridor with three rooms accessed from it, the ‘Signals Office’ which still has 6 acoustic booths and a lot of soggy files relating to the bus company. Next to this room is the ‘Teleprinter Room’ and the ‘Switchboard Room’. The partition wall between the two has fallen away and the rooms are strewn with rubbish, much of it having fallen from the ceiling.
Beyond this room the corridor turns left widens out and cuts across the three remaining vaulted tunnels. At this corner there is a large WW2 sign on the wall which says ‘Civil Defence Ambulance Service’ with a large arrow. Beyond the cross corridor is an unlined brick room which would have contained the boilers for the garage but is now empty. The room has two short alcoves with glass windows indicating that this room was probably once open to daylight (the basement was originally built into the side of the hillside) although the land has now been built up and the room is entirely below ground. At the back of this room a doorway leads into an archive storage area for the bus company fitted out with metal shelves (all empty).
Passing into the third parallel vault. There is a narrow corridor along one side. To the left the tunnel has been divided into two rooms the ‘Scientific Intelligence Officers Room’ and the ‘Ladies Dormitory’ beyond these at the end of the tunnel are the ladies toilets with two cubicles and wash basins. To the right of the cross corridor is the ‘Controllers Conference Room’ which has a narrow corridor right round it and at the end of the tunnel the first of the emergency exits to the bus bays with two toilet cubicles on either side.
Although the stairway has been partially backfilled it is possible to climb the stairs to the concrete capping.
Crossing into the forth vaulted tunnel, to the left are two rooms linked by a narrow corridor. The first is the ‘Messengers and Rest Room’ and beyond that the ‘Male Dormitory’ with the male toilets at the end of the tunnel. To the right is the long ‘Liaison Officers and Information Room’ and beyond it another blocked emergency stairway.
The fifth and longest vaulted tunnel has a large store room to the right with the third blocked stairway at the far end. To the left is the kitchen with a ‘butler’ sink, draining board and water heater with a window into the corridor and a serving hatch into the canteen beyond. There is a small in one corner of the main corridor opposite the door into the kitchen, this has a number of concrete shelves for kitchen stores. At the back of the canteen is the fuel and water tank room and beyond it the two small plant rooms. The standby generator has gone although its position is obvious as there is still a concrete plinth. The filtration and ventilation plant and trunking is still intact in the adjacent room but very rusty.
Most of the rooms in the bunker have been completely stripped of anything relating to its use as a control centre and are all strewn with rubbish much of it having dropped from the walls and ceilings. There are a few laminated maps in other rooms but any remaining papers are part of the bus and tram archive which is strewn across the floor in several rooms. Many of the papers have rotted in the damp atmosphere.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Robin Ware, Bob Jenner, Keith Ward & Robin Cherry.