Monument record MYO3703 - World War II air raid shelter complex


Air raid shelters recorded at Nuffield Hospital.


Grid reference Centred SE 6078 5346 (53m by 47m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

The shelters observed on this site were seen to follow a standard pattern of a long narrow chamber with an access point at one end, this being aligned at 90 degrees to the main body of the shelter. Only parts of these shelters were seen, namely those parts that occurred within the lines of the foundation trenches.

Consequently, certain shelters were seen in a number of narrow cuttings, others only within one foundation cutting. As far as could be ascertained there were 11 shelters within the footprint of the building. The basal parts of the shelters occurred at a depth generally of around 1.45m below the surface stripped level, which approximates with around 1.8m below the former car-park surface level.

The basal part of the shelters were formed of pre-cast sectional slabs, typically fractionally over 100mm thick and around 1.52m in width (these dimensions appear likely to equate with imperial measurements of 4 inches thick and 5 feet wide, respectively). The sides of the shelters were formed of overlapping sections of pre-cast, steel reinforced concrete. Most commonly these were 0.27m wide by 0.11m thick and had a simple lap joint to either side. The length of these side panels could not be accurately ascertained owing to their top ends being smashed in at the time of demolition, however, this was clearly in excess of 1.55m. These side walls were fitted snugly against the sides of the basal slab floors rather than being seated on their upper surface. The roof was made of similar panels, of the same width and thickness, though these had an arched profile to them and spanned from side wall to side wall. None of the roof panels, nor indeed the tops of the side panels, survived intact as these had been broken in at the time of demolition. Entrances/exits to the shelters was via concrete staircases at one end of the shelter and were aligned at 90 degrees to the long axis. Each of these steps was a pre-cast single unit and was embedded within the side walls of the entrance. The side walls of the entrances were, in all observed cases, built of brick with some steel reinforcing bars within. The theory behind such angling of entrances was that such would reduce the effects of blast within the shelter.

It is known that in some air-raid shelters of ‘trench shelter’ type that emergency exist hatches were provided at the ends opposite to the entrances (Figure 4). It is not known if such were a fixture of the Haxby Road shelters. Chemical toilets were also sometimes provided in these shelters, screened simply by a curtain, but again the presence of such arrangements here is unknown. Lighting in trench shelters could be by candle or by electric lighting. No cabling was observed within the backfilled shelters, though any such cabling could have been salvaged prior to demolition.

It is assumed that demolition of the air raid shelters took place soon after the war ended. Demolition was achieved by the crushing and breaking up of the roof, presumably with machines. Within the shelter tunnels there were also large quantities of re-deposited natural clays, often inter-mixed with darker, siltier, topsoil-like materials. No ‘finds’ or other materials were recovered from the shelters save for a number of pieces of partially decayed wood. It would seem likely that that the shelters were kept reasonably clear and clean, this certainly appears to have been the case at the time of demolition.
All the shelters appeared to have their long axes aligned north – south, with the short entrances to them being aligned east – west. It is assumed that this regularity of alignment is owed to a need to accommodate as many shelters as possible within a restricted area. The shelters were constructed initially by the digging of long vertically sided trenches to a level just below that of the underside of the basal slabs and fractionally wider that the side to side width of the slab walls. Small amounts of fill, principally brick rubble and soil occupied the gap between the outer sides of the side panels and the edge of the trench cut. This thin gap was seldom wider than 0.15m. Given the assumed heights of the side panels and contemporary ground level, it is likely that the upper parts of the side panels were roughly at ground level. Assuming such, then the arched roof would have risen slightly above the then existing ground level. Upcast from excavating the shelter trenches seems certain to have been laid up over the top of the shelter roofs producing the effect of a series of linear mounds.

There are a handful of photographs of air-raid shelters at Rowntree’s, though the location of the particular shelters depicted is not known. However, at least one of these photographs depicts a trench shelter of broadly similar pattern to those observed during the watching brief. This photograph shows people seated on benches to either side of the shelter. No evidence for seating accommodation was encountered during the monitoring works and it is probable that such bench arrangements were utilised here. The same photograph also shows electric lighting.

YAT, 2011, Care Home Nuffield Hospital Haxby Road (Unpublished document). SYO1290.

Sources/Archives (1)

  • --- Unpublished document: YAT. 2011. Care Home Nuffield Hospital Haxby Road.

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Jul 26 2021 9:18AM


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