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Author Topic: Chislehurst Caves air raid shelter  (Read 3055 times)
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John
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« on: May 10, 2012, 19:29:40 PM »

An article in the Daily Mail, September 27th 1940.

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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2012, 18:40:17 PM »

A sketch made in the shelter tunnels, February 1941.

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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2012, 19:49:29 PM »

And a blurred photograph showing some of the occupants of the shelter.

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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2012, 20:16:44 PM »

THE CAVES COMMITTEE

Rev. Canon J. R. Lumb.
J. G. Gardner
F. E. Lease.

THE SHANTY,
OLD HILL,
CHISLEHURST.
24th July 1941.
Telephone :


Dear Mr Pankhurst,

The Caves Committee are somewhat alarmed at the inroads made on the accomodation of the caves by the extension now commenced by the contractors Messrs Mott Hay & Anderson. Without any previous consultation with the Committee an extension is being made to the existing Isolation wards; neither of these two wards (which occupy considerable space) have ever been fully occupied, in fact only a couple of contacts is about all that have been housed there & the necessity for alienating a further space does not seem very apparent. The Committee have requested the contractors to discontinue this work for the present.

Yours sincerely,

(Sgd) F.E.Lease
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2012, 18:40:12 PM »

METROPOLITAN POLICE

SPECIAL BRANCH

28th October, 1940.


In accordance with instructions and assisted by Detective Sergeant Cecil RHODES, I have made enquiries concerning the use of Chislehurst Caves as an Air Raid Shelter:-

Chislehurst Caves were, in the past, used as a showplace by the Trust Houses Limited, Shorts Gardens, Drury Lane, W.C.2., who own THE BICKLEY ARMS public house which is situated at the entrance to the caves.

Mr. James G. Gardiner of Kent Mushrooms Limited, Broomwood Nurseries, St. Paul's Cray, has a lease on the land under which the caves are situated;  and Mr. F.E. LEASE, who is associated with him in business;  are responsible for organising the caves as an air raid shelter.  They do this on a voluntary basis and both men reside at The Shanty, Chislehurst, which is near the entrance to the caves.

At present, approximately 5,000 people are using the caves each night as an air raid shelter.  Of this number, 3,500 persons are estimated to be regulars who have been sheltering permanently in the caves since early September, 1940.  The remainder usually spend one night in the caves and are then advised that they must seek shelter elsewhere.

A week or two ago copies of the Communist leaflet "Workers Must Have What the Rich Have Got", were found in the caves.  They had been left on people's beds surreptitiously.  Apart from this no other form of extremist literature has been distributed in the caves although the DAILY WORKER is on sale each day in the vicinity of the entrance to the caves.

There is no charge made to persons who use the caves as shelters, but each night a collection is made to meet the cost of sanitary arrangements.

Each cave elects a Captain who represents approximately fifty people and he is responsible for the collection.

The amount collected averages approximately £8-10-0 daily, and this amount is expended daily on a sanitation squad comprising six to eight men who are permanently employed, and eight others who are drawn from the unemployed men who live in the caves.  The men are paid 1/6 per hour and their work chiefly consists of removing bins used in the lavatories.  The local rates for labourers is 1/4 per hour.

The Sidcup and Chislehurst local authorities refuse to render any assistance in the sanitary arrangements, and in consequence the whole..

(Large amount illegible)

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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2012, 08:15:53 AM »

CHISLEHURST CAVES - PUBLIC SHELTER.

(No date on document, but seems to be 1944)

These caves come within the jurisdiction of Chislehurst and Sidcup Urban District Council and have been the subject of much correspondence, inspection and administration problems.

The present position under fly bomb attacks has aggravated the adverse conditions.  Dr. Cave informs me that the occupants are 60% London residents and 40% Kent residents, and that the present numbers vary between 8,000 and 14,000 inhabitants.  He has made it the subject of of report to his Local Authority, which report should reach you in due course.

He informs me that there has been three deaths of babies from gastroenteritis and he is seriously disturbed about the conditions.

This morning following your message I asked Dr.Horsburgh, who is giving me assistance during these stressful days, to pay a visit to these caves and to give me his opinion after a general supervisory inspection.  He was informed by the responsible member of the committee that the present permanent residents are approximately 8,000 to 10,000, but that no official return of numbers is available.  A large number of these persons appeared to be able bodied men and women: a large number of young children are permanent residents.  Many of these do not appear to leave the caves for the open air except for very short periods.  The general conditions within the caves leave much to be desired and are not conducive to health.

Taking the matter generally, from my own previous observations and those reported to me today, the following suggestions are worthy of your consideration:

1.  All children of evacuable age, and especially those under five years, should be excluded.

2.  If the caves are to be used as a public shelter, it is suggested that they be closed until such time as the hygienic facilities can be on a basis satisfactory to the Public Health Authorities.

3.  It is disturbing to see able bodied men and women living permanently in the caves and attempting to rear young babies under these conditions.

4.  An investigation is required into the dietary (sic) of the people inhabiting these caves and also the care given to chronically sick persons.

5.  The whole matter is in the main the social problem as well as a medical one related above.


(Sgd) illegible

Medical Officer of Health.
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PNK
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« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2012, 10:16:43 AM »

I used to visit the caves regularly as a kid in the early 1960's. They should be worth a visit if you are in the area. I think the guides used to ramp up the dramatics a bit though and I suspect they use torches rather than hurricane lamps now.
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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2012, 16:22:51 PM »

Dr. Wilson.

Chislehurst Caves.

(1) I have discussed this with Alderman Key.  Dr. Tapper's further report has just come to hand.  I think he covers the main points.

(2) The deaths of the three babies is disturbing.  I understand that the Kent County Council have now put in a full time Welfare Officer.

(3) I think it is essential that Kent, as the Scheme-Making Authority, should be encouraged to take a lively interest in this shelter.  It is also desirable that the Homeless Branch should know what is going on and I understand that Miss Moran of this Office will be quite willing to assist in every way.  The practical step at the moment is to arrange for a visit, getting along Dr. Tapper, the Medical Officer of Health for Chislehurst, Miss Dallas and a representative from Homeless Branch.  Perhaps we can have a word.

(Signed) illegible
22nd July, 1944.
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cliveh
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2014, 11:12:14 AM »

A few photos from a visit last Sunday:

cliveh

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« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2016, 09:51:34 AM »

Gloucestershire Echo - Friday 05 May 1944

Military and civil police visited Chiselhurst caves, used as air raid shelters, early to-day, to check the identity cards of the shelterers. Between four and five thousand people were interrogated.
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« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2016, 09:53:47 AM »

Lincolnshire Echo - Friday 12 January 1945

FIREWATCHER SLEPT IN CAVES.
For failing on four occasions to do firewatching, Harry George Ayliffe (41) of Vale Cottages, Bromley, Kent, a labourer at the Ministry of Supply was fined £8 at Bromley to-day. It was stated that at the height of the flying bomb attacks he was sleeping in Chiselhurst Caves when he should have been firewatching.
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« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2017, 09:51:27 AM »

Fascinating thread and learning a lot from reading the posts. I have been looking at the life of Argentinian born poet Lynette Roberts who lived in Wales  from 1939 until  1949 , where she wrote most of her work. Lynette Roberts left Wales and opened an Arts Centre at Chislehurst Caves which ran from 1955-1956.
So far found very little about this short lived venture. But some interesting material can be found here on the Caves

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/chislehurst-caves

Also featured in TV series  'Most Haunted'
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