Halstead’s 16 air raid shelters

Halstead, Essex

Close to Halstead High Street, in an area of woodland and wetland, lies a group of 16 WW2 air raid shelters.

Categories: historic

On a south facing slope, just a hundred or so yards from Halstead, High Street, a small Essex town, lies an area of woodland with protected trees, wetland and an unusually large group of WW2 air raid shelters.

Built by the textile giants, Courtaulds in 1939, the group consists of 15 semi-sunken Costain type air raid shelters which held up to 50 people at a time in spartan conditions. A 16th shelter was built above ground and probably used as a first aid post and communications room. With limited space, Courtaulds to built most of the structures in the gardens of their own industrial housing on Factory Lane East.  The shelters were seconds away from the 'Crystal Palace' where workers were engaged directly in the war effort weaving silk for the  manufacture of parachutes. The company’s log of time spent away from the looms reveal that a total of 170 visits to the shelters were made during working hours and local residents recall spending several consecutive nights in the shelters.
For more than 40 years, this site has been neglected by its many owners and the many plans put forward have come to naught. The factory was demolished in 1986 but many of its buildings survive including the shelters - among some of the last structures to have been built as part of the industrial complex.

Time has taken its toll on the shelters and doing nothing is no longer an option. We  and many of the local community wish to save them and the land for the benefit of present and future generations. However, the vendor consortium made up of the owners of the site are actively re-marketing it with a view to development.

 It is our belief and that of many of the local community,  the shelters and the land and wildlife area they lie on should be  that preserved or conserved. Seventy years on from the end of VE day, the threat to the shelters is greater than it was during WW2.