York’s Air-Raid Shelters

Brick and concrete roof air-raid shelters

Part of the ambition of the Raids Over York project is to document examples of the different types of shelters still standing today in the city.

Homeowner, Lawrence E., with a brick-built air-raid shelter and reinforced concrete roof in the backyard of a property on Huntingdon Road – not far away from the bombing in The Groves during the sixth raid on the city.

As York’s water table is comparatively high in large parts of the city, it prevented the inclusion of basements in the city’s standard terraces, as are commonly found in, say, Leeds, Sheffield or Harrogate, forcing the authorities to opt instead for constructing external shelters for civilians.

Again, the water table frequently prevented the widespread use of the national shelter programme of Anderson Shelters in York (although some were used and continue to exist in the city), as these were most effective when semi-subterranean and dug down into the ground.

This shelter in Stamford Street East in the Leeman Road Area, has a 150mm thick reinforced concrete roof and the brickwork is 230mm thick.

This shelter in Lindley Street, Holgate, has a similar 150mm thick reinforced concrete roof and there is evidence of the planking used as form work on the soffit. The brickwork is in English garden wall bond and is 335mm thick. The shelter is built onto a shed which would likely have been an outside WC.

York’s standard private air-raid shelter is therefore most often a simple brick and concrete roof structure, usually in a rear yard or garden and set slightly away from the rear of the property.

The inside of a brick private shelter on Mill Lane, Heworth – showing the thickness of the walls (c. 9″; 23cm) and marks left on the underside of the concrete roof shuttering by timber boards.

These brick shelters invariably have two-skins of brick – making the walls 9″ (23cm) wide.

They had a simple entrance to one side (not central to it), and had a flat or slightly pitched 6″ (15cm) concrete roof atop.

A large private air raid shelter in brick with concrete roof in Glen Road, Heworth. Image: Iona Miles.
Two members of the Raid Over York project team expecting the brick courses of the Glen Road shelter. This shelter is unusual in that it looks t be made of older and smaller bricks than are commonly found in York shelters. Image: Iona Miles
An internal image of the Glen Road shelter showing corrugate iron sheeting used on the underside of the concrete ceiling and supported in place by an iron bar. Image: Iona Miles.

A member of the Raids Over York team “exploring” inside a private brick and concrete roof shelter on Melbourne Street, now being “reclaimed” by nature!
Metal braces inside the Melbourne Street private brick shelter, showing how some concrete roof panels were fastened more securely in place.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has complicated gaining access to better record these shelters, as is the Raids Over York project’s intention, we are grateful to homeowners who have contacted us and sent details and images of their shelters so far. You can too, by contacting us via this website or our social media channels.

We are also very interested to learn what the city’s remaining private shelters are used for today – and tool shed or bin store perhaps? And we would love it if you could also send us a picture of you or your family in front of the shelter! It helps to really make that connection between life in York today and the remarkable history of York during World War Two – everything that the Raids Over York project is about.

Thanks to homeowners on Huntingdon Road, Stamford Street East, Lindley Street, Glen Road, Mill Lane, Levisham Street, and Melbourne Street for details and images of their brick and concrete roof air-raid shelters.

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