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Walking back in time... History is unveiled in town centre MIDDLESBROUGH town centre's last remaining Second World War air raid shelter is believed to be preserved under the streets, it's been revealed.

Byline: SAM BEATTIE reports.

WHEN terror rained from the skies, people huddled underground.

And if you were at work or out shopping when the haunting air raid claxon whirred up, you'd take refuge in one of many public air-raid shelters built under Middlesbrough's streets in the early 1940s.

Now the war-time lifesavers are long-gone victims of progress - or are they?

One shelter is thought to remain, it has emerged for the first time.

And the chances are you've recently walked within feet of it.

A huge bunker, designed to protect 367 people from the Luftwaffe's slaughterous raids, has been tracked down below Linthorpe Road in the town centre.

A jeweller's, a building society, a camping store, a pound shop and a clothing store now sit unassumingly above the hidden war-time structure.

The only give-away it was ever there is a fading sign nearby.

Paint weathered by more than 65 years of Teesside rain and sun, it only just reads: "ARP SHELTER FOR 367 PERSONS".

But Phil Hudson, Middlesbrough's emergency planning officer, has done some research.

He believes that, as there's no record of the shelter ever being filled in, it's probably still there - and intact.

"There were numerous ones all around the town at the time," he said.

"This is the one we know least about.

"It's a big one and if it is still there it's probably the only one left. It's an important bit of history.

"It's been built around. The doorway itself might actually be in the shop on the corner. It's probably behind some wallpaper or something.

"The next thing would be to get down there to have a look at the condition of it and see what it's like."

The steps to the depths are thought to be behind the clothes shop on the back corner of the parade.

Based on some calculations and satellite images, Phil's worked out the shelter is probably about 1,000 metres - more than 3,300 foot - squared.

It was made by knocking through the cellars under the shops and possibly the former Shakespeare pub - now an amusement arcade - then extending the bunker behind the buildings.

"They used to knock all the cellars into one and put in extra steelwork to shore them all up," added Phil.

By comparing similar plans, he's built up a clear picture of what the massive shelter might look like.

"I spent a lunch hour in the archives and started coming out with these big reels of plans. It was fascinating to see.

"Looking at some of the other plans, they weren't just big holes. They'd be areas separated off as a store and as a kitchen area. Several of these plans for air-raid shelters in the area still exist - but not this one."

After the war, the basements were separated off again and handed back to their owners.

But extended bunkers such as the one on Linthorpe Road were boarded up and abandoned - technically the space didn't belong to anyone.

"Presumably this one, because it was in the back yard, couldn't be returned," explained Phil.

"When you look at the town centre there were a number of these around the place. They were all used. There were more people living around there then than there are now but mainly it was for people who were in the shops when the air-raid siren went off.

"The other ones effectively don't exist any more. They were returned to their original owners. One of them was bombed and all the others over a period of time have disappeared."

Most have been lost to development as Middlesbrough town centre was given facelift after facelift in the post-war decades.

At least one didn't even make it that long - a shelter near the train station was decimated during a blitz. It was never rebuilt.

"One of the bombs actually hit a train but they had it up and running within hours," said Phil.

Other former bunkers he has located include an enormous one under the Wesley Church, which gave way to the Cleveland Centre, and another further down Linthorpe Road.

Do you know anything about the air raid shelter in question? Call Sam Beattie on 01642 234 257, e-mail sam.beattie@eveninggazette.co.uk or write to him at Newsroom, Gazette Buildings, Borough Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 3AZ.

CAPTION(S):

It's been built around. The doorway itself might actually be in the shop on the corner. It's probably behind some wallpaper or something - Phil Hudson, Middlesbrough's emergency planning officer, pictured above with the shelter sign; BOMB CHAOS: A bomb on Middlesbrough railway station and above, people help with clearing up after a bombing on Marsh Road; RESEARCH: Phil walks down the road behind the Linthorpe Road shops, above and the shops, top right
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 7, 2007
Words:792
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