The secrets below Clapham Common

When you walk across the open space of Clapham Common you may have no idea what lies below. Would it surprise you to read that there is a World War II bomb shelter able to accommodate 8,000 bomb weary Londoners?

A pair of parallel tunnels 5.03 m in diameter and 370 m long lay over 30 meters below. After you climb down the 178-step spiral staircase you enter an area that was a beacon of safety in the turbulent times of World War II. Completed in 1942, the Clapham South shelter housed 8,000 bunks separated into 15 sections.

The end of the war saw most of the shelters fall into disuse, but Clapham South found a role as a hostel for unfortunate tourists during the Festival of Britain in 1953. They also offered a less-than-glowing welcome to 492 immigrant workers from Jamaica who arrived on the MV Empire Windrush in 1948.

Nigel Holness, one of TFL operations directors, “It’s odd to think that up above us, people are just walking by, unaware that there’s all this transport and Second World War history beneath their feet”.

To get a look at the secrets below Clapham Common, head over to the London Transport Museum website. Dates for tours, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – 1 October to 25 October 2015 with prices for tickets: Adult £30. Unfortunately at the time of writing this, all dates and times are sold out.

1 The Independent April 2014. Gimme shelter: The last of the capital’s Second World War bunkers is up for rent. [Online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/gimme-shelter-the-last-of-the-capital-s-second-world-war-bunkers-is-up-for-rent-9244731.html
2 London deep-level shelters Wikipedia. [Online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_deep-level_shelters
[All information sources accessed 14th October 2015].

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