Thursday, 31 December 2015

“If you go into the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise”........... looking for that air raid shelter in Parrs Wood

Now I know there will be someone who will remember the air raid shelter on the Gateway Estate which was built “12 feet below Kingsway.  Accommodating 120 people the shelter cost £800 to build and had a concert room, whist and bridge parlour, and lounge.”*

According to the Manchester Evening News “the shelter club was the idea of Mr William Ponsford who was a builder [and] in the dugout which is fitted with steel doors there is a piano and a radio-gramophone.  

One room has accommodation for dancing.  Gas-proof ventilation is installed [and] the shelter has two dug-out entrances and back exit and many of the tenants are already using the shelter as a social club.”

On one level it strikes you as a jokey little piece which even today has a charm overlaid with hints of Dad’s Army, but of course that is to take away the very real danger of bombing raids.

For me it is there in the description of those steel doors and the gas proof ventilation, this was after all a time when we could not be sure that gas would not be used as a weapon.

It was so potent a concern that it had led to the issue of millions of gas masks and warnings about going out without one.

And given that fire bombs and one high explosive device did fall on Parrs Wood Mr Ponsford was right to make the effort more so given the devastation that fell from the skies the following December.

All of which leaves me to ponder on what happened to that shelter.  Sally who found the piece tells me that the Gateway Estate was behind the pub, so I await the memories and stories of the Parrs Wood shelter to bubble to the surface.

Pictures; from the Manchester Evening News, January 1940, courtesy of Sally Dervan


*THEY CAN DANCE IN A RAID, Manchester Evening News, January 1940

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