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St.Thomas' School Air Raid Shelter

At St. Thomas' we're constantly trying to record the church's rich history. Obviously much is known about its key features such as the murals, stained glass windows, war memorial and mosaics. However, there are other less well known aspects of the church's history which occasionally come to light. One such case is that during World War Two the area under the south aisle was used as an Air Raid Shelter for the pupils of St. Thomas' School.

This particular piece of history was almost lost in time had it not been for a chance encounter with a former pupil of the school who came in to church one day to visit. During a conversation she mentioned that she well remembered her time at the school during the war years and that when the air raid siren sounded the children were ushered across the road (St. Thomas' Walk) and into the church where they climbed down a ladder into the shelter. At the bottom of the steps they were, "greeted by the vicar who was standing at the bottom of the ladder". The hatch was in the corner of the south aisle near the door to the vestries. A new hatch was created further up the aisle when the Children's Corner was built.

This information may also solve one of the mysteries which has puzzled us for some time. Why is there a brick wall running alongside the stone wall under the aisle? It's not part of the original building and appears not to serve any structural purpose.  It is possible that the brick wall was put in to add additional protection in the event of a bombing raid.

Despite efforts to find out any other reference to the air raid shelter so far we have drawn a blank. So, if you have any other evidence, either anecdotal or formal, we'd really like to hear from you. If anyone has any photographs then that would be amazing. Contact-

The original hatchway into the shelter.        The ladder which the                  The East wall of the shelter.

                                                                                  children climbed down?

View of the shelter facing North.                   The cavity between the            The small "window" set into the  

                                                                                 brick wall and the original        brick wall. Why?

                                                                                 stone wall 

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