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Banstead Village

Lady Neville underground shelter
The Banstead Image Library
Lady Neville underground shelter

My apologies for the quality of this photo taken in the 1950s. The only reason I submit it for inclusion in the archive, is that it shows the entrance to the underground air raid shelter in the Lady Neville Recreation ground. It is the triangular white shape on right. I am hoping that this may prompt someone else to bring out their better picture of the scene.
Picture added on 12 April 2012 at 14:38
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The smooth face of the slabs covering the entrance, which is on the left hand side, made a good slide! Happy days!
Added by Michael Funnell on 14 April 2012
I think this photo may have been taken in the very late 1950's or even 1960's. I cannot recall all those small trees being there when I left the school in 1954. If they had been there, they would surely have shown in the school photos up to 1955 which were taken with the hedge and road as a background?
Added by Michael Funnell on 17 April 2012
Please answer a question for me. Was there an underground air raid shelter in the park? If so, was it round (Doughnut in shape) and lined with metal bunk beds? I have this memory of sleeping there. Maybe after the bomb struck, seeing as our house was in a bit of state. My mother, three aunts and I were in the Morrison shelter when it exploded. My granddad was in the garden watching it. He was hit on the head by the leaded toilet window.

Note from LNW - This question was received via the BHRG website and comes from William (Bill) S. McBean formerly of Harbourfied Road. The photo above clearly answers the first part of the question but can anyone help with the second?
Added by Lewis N Wood on 25 April 2012
My recollections of the air raid shelter in Lady Neville Recreation Ground may well be faulty as I only spent very short periods in there, having been 'shooed' in by a warden. Discovering the emergency exit between a beech hedge and the tennis court's wire-link fence, I was pretty soon out of there – probably before the siren had finished! My impression of the shelter was that it was rectangular – no bunks but benches each side – cinders underfoot and not very deep.

It was originally dug trench-like but later covered over. The angled entrance, with a pair of wooden doors, was facing the (bowls) pavilion. The reverse slope was concreted at a later date. There was a wardens' post immediately you entered the Ground by the gate in Avenue Road, opposite the school.

Mike Shackel

Added by Lewis N Wood on 26 April 2012
I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Shackel for the response to my air raid shelter question. It's clearly nothing like my foggy memory.
I do recognise the concreted over entrance. A gang of us used to play football in the space between this and the cricket green, much to the annoyance of the park keeper. When we had enough of football or it got too dark, we used to chase the girls who came to watch and pass comments about us. Those were the days.
We also played cricket on the outfield of the cricket green. My best friend’s brother played cricket for Banstead. His surname was Ryle. I think that is how it was spelt
I will just stick with the memories of the place and people even if they are a bit fuzzy. Like getting six of the best for walking out of the junior school one day and trying to join the travelling circus sited up Park Road. I delivered papers up that road as well, and it was the road to the sledging hill. Oh! It’s all coming back.

Bill Mcbean

Added by Lewis N Wood on 29 April 2012
If I recall correctly - it's a long time ago! - there was a similar concrete structured shelter entrance at the junction of Great Tattenhams and east side of Tattenham Crescent. I don't know if these type of shelters were of similar design or all different. I am too young to remember if I was ever in one!
Added by Michael Funnell on 29 April 2012
Back in the 80s the concrete pyramid collapsed and opened up the shelter. I went down there and from what i remember it was quite narrow and square in shape. My dad told me there was also a shelter to the left hand side of the main entrance to the park which was evident back in the 80s 90s by a long rectangular mound.
Added by Colin Church on 16 July 2012
I can confirm to Colin that there was a shelter to the left of the park entrance, behind the bowls pavilian. Two friends hid there after inadvisably upsetting a group of violent looking visitors from Sutton. The leader of the gang didn't want to look silly by going into the shelter so he threw a dustbin down through the entrance and was satisfied nobody was there when no sound came back. The white triangular object I only knew as a (useless) slide, which it was definately designed as but I never knew it covered a shelter.
Added by Jon Riche on 20 September 2012
I was in the Infants & Junior school during The War. We were often marched across Avenue Road into this shelter which was not very deep, was square and had bench seats on sides. It extended up to the South side of the tennis courts where ventilation brick shafts were built. The Junior School had a brick & concrete shelter built in the `cycle shed`and when reinforced area made in the cloak lobby, we used this instead. The teachers were Mr.Paul headmaster, Miss Day head female teacher, Mrs Wood, Staddon and the best teacher was Mrs Ward. Mrs King was in charge of the Infants School. Three brothers from Belgium arrived about 1943 and two French brothers., none could speak a word of English!!
Added by Ray Foster on 05 November 2012
I too recall the brick and concrete shelter in the school yard. When lessons ended we had to wait for a parent or adult to collect us. While waiting we had old jigsaw puzzles to do and redo..... My favourite was the Bisto kids - everytime I see their advert it takes me back to the shelter..... lovely memories.
Added by Michael Harn on 14 November 2013
The Mrs. Ward referred to was in fact "Miss Ward" the sister of Bob Ward a very good player who played cricket for Banstead. He and Miss Ward lived in Warren Road.
Added by Tony F. Collinson, OBE on 21 February 2017
I also remember a Spruce tree surrounded by a metal railing which was planted in memory of King George V.
Added by Tony F. Collinon, O.B.E. on 01 March 2017
Bill McBean refers to someone call "Ryle". This was probably Peter Ryle who had flaming red hair - hence his nickname of "Ginger". He grew up to be a good fast bowler for Banstead CC. He later left Banstead and went to play for Mitcham. He lived in Harbourfield Road, his sister was Joyce. He has sadly passed away!
Added by Tony F. Collinson on 01 March 2017
Well I've just had a question answered after 50 or so years. My brothers and sisters and I used to play on the concrete triangle and have never known what it was there for. It's good to find this out after so many years . i lived in Buff Avenue between 1959 and 1985 regularly playing in the Lady Neville Rec and running past on our way to school -St Ann's in Court Road
Added by Fiona Maxwell-Stewart on 21 November 2018
Hi, I lived in Laurel Cottage, opposite the park and the 'concrete triangle' from 1963 until 1984 when I got married. I agree with Jon Riche - the pebbly-concrete made a poor (and painful!) slide. I never knew it concealed the entrance to an air raid shelter until recently. It would appear there were therefore two air raid shelters - this concrete-covered one, and the one just behind the bowling pavilion, to the left of the main park entrance. The latter formed a raised 'hump' (good to climb on) and used to have steps down to a padlocked door - I think it is all now filled-in. It would appear to have been purpose-built for its use, and close to the park entrance.

I have an interest in the site of the medieval manor of Banstead, and there have been some finds and wall lines discovered or visible as parch marks in the gardens to the west of Avenue Road and to the north of Court Road. There is also a rumoured void beneath the rear of Cheviot Close, said to be the cellars to the manor. I am therefore quite interested in 'voids in the ground' in the vicinity. The concrete triangle site strikes me as a rather 'random' place to construct an underground shelter - a slight distance into the recreation ground and not adjacent to any entrance - hardly the quickest place for residents to access. If anyone (especially those who have commented above) has clear memories of the space, I would be interested to know to what extent it appeared purpose-built as a shelter, or whether it is possible the shelter may have exploited a pre-existing void? If it spread to the south side of the tennis courts it must have been quite large. I appreciate I am asking 'mature' minds to recall 'infant' memories!
Added by Jan Burbridge on 12 April 2019
A little of the history of the Lady Neville shelters from the minutes of the Banstead Urban District Council:

In October 1938, it was decided to dig shelter trenches to accommodate 125 people in the Lady Neville Recreation Ground, with accommodation for nearly 1,200 people to be provided at other sites throughout the Banstead Urban District. The largest of the shelters was near Banstead Station, where 360 people were to be accommodated.

In early 1939, it was decided to convert the trenches into permanent structures meeting Home Office specifications, with the ground to be restored to a level condition, subject to modifications arising from the nature of the soil. The construction was to use concrete, at an estimated cost of £342, and the dimensions were given as 70 yards. In reality, the shelters ended up 2ft 6in deeper than specified, no reason being given for this.

Tenders were submitted by Richard Costain Ltd and Trianco Ltd to supply pre-cast concrete units for lining the shelters. The Trianco bid (£173) was successful but although their bid was lower, it did not include labour costs and so Council labour was used in the construction.

The main body of the shelters was completed by May 1939. Even with space for over 100 people, that would be a drop in the ocean of Banstead’s population, so at the same time as the public shelters were being built, the Council provided plans for shelters, encouraging people to build their own at home at their own expense, and the Government were making free private shelters available to those who could not afford to do so. The public shelters were only intended to be for those caught away from home, shopping or travelling, with the shelters by the station probably [this is not minuted] being an exception and intended for Londoners leaving town for the relative safety of our semi-rural area (similar arrangements had been put in place during WW1 to provide accommodation for Londoners at the Church Institute).

Work on an entrance ramp to the Lady Neville shelters continued throughout the summer of 1939, as war loomed. Attempts to procure first aid kits and 60 camp beds proved unsuccessful, presumably as every other local authority was scrabbling to buy them up for their own districts.

In July 1940, while the Battle of Britain was being fought over the skies of southern England, not long before the Blitz began, several local residents were appointed as shelter marshals and they and the warden at the nearby Air Raid Precautions post were given a key. The keys to other public shelters were to kept in glass-fronted boxes at the entrance to each shelter.

With the main danger passed as the Blitz ended in the autumn of 1940, the Government issued bunk beds for shelters. 402 of them were requested for our district, with 18 children’s bunks among those intended for the Lady Neville shelter. As to whether they were ever installed or not, the minutes are not clear and the descriptions in the above posts suggest that only benches were fitted.

The shelters proved to be leaky and contractors had to be engaged to waterproof them in the winter of 1940-41. This was a common problem in the district with Anderson shelters in many cases being built too high to be effective as the householders tried to avoid going too far underground to escape flooding.

There is no further mention of the shelters in the BUDC minutes throughout the rest of the war.

Added by James Crouch on 20 May 2019
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