19. The Bunker

Building and maintenance work in summer 2022 uncovered a reminder of the Second World War, an underground air-raid shelter or bunker in the garden of 14 Chadlington Road. Overall, it measures 8.50 by 5.50m, with its concrete asphalt-coated roof projecting 0.50m above the ground.

Photo: George Mather

The entrance is to the right, by a flight of concrete steps; in the walls on either side can still be seen the plank-marks left by the timber framing into which the concrete was poured.

These steps lead to a small lobby with store-room and toilet, and then to the main room with an exit-shaft at the far end. Overall, this bunker (to dignify it by the term) resembles the design of an air-raid shelter published in 1938 by the newly-created Air Raid Precautions Department, which has suggested that it was built in the very late ’30s, when the threat – and fear – of war with Hitler’s Germany was much increased. But the sophisticated internal fittings suggest it was not just a shelter. Its main, concrete-built room not only had a wooden floor, it was neatly panelled in wood, with shelves and built-in desks. It even had electrical lighting.

Photo: George Mather

Like the pottery found on a Roman site, there is even a hint in the archaeology of the bunker as to how it might have been used – a wooden crate stamped with ‘JB Kind. Boxmaker. Burton-on-Trent’, a company which during the War made boxes for ammunition and other military material. It is tempting to see the bunker, not as an elaborate shelter for the two elderly ladies who then lived at 14 Chadlington Road, but as a well-protected underground office for some branch of military intelligence.

Photo: George Mather

The jury is still out on this, but meanwhile LiDAR laser scanning has been done, and the College maintenance staff have secured the site, removing a small quantity of asbestos and making it weather-proof. Perhaps it will now acquire a new, peacetime role; not to the extent of becoming a tourist attraction like Bletchley Park, but as a safe store, maybe for wine or some of the College archives.

Dr Nicholas Márquez-Grant (GS 1999–2006) is Senior Lecturer in Forensic Archaeology at Cranfield University, where he is working with Maria Cunningham, also of the University, to publish a full account of the bunker.

Liz Baird and Nicholas Marquez-Grant