Wartime Buildings

At the time of the Munich Crisis when war seemed inevitable a programme of trench building began throughout the borough. From 1939, as part of the Civil Defence preparations, the local authorities of Edmonton, Enfield and Southgate began roofing over the trenches and building many structures for wartime use.There were trenches on the Library Green in Enfield and in Pymmes Park in Edmonton. There were Auxiliary Fire Service Stations at Pymmes House and Broomfield House.

LIBRARY GREEN 1939
Digging trenches on the Library Green in Enfield Town
Broomfield House in use as an ARP post
Broomfield House in use as an ARP post
Gun emplacement Slades Hill
Gun emplacement Slades Hill

There was a gun emplacement on fields north of Slades Hill and a searchlight in Pymmes Park. Although some Wardens’ Posts and First Aid Centres were housed in existing buildings such as Broomfield House and under the Methodist Church in Enfield Town many were purpose built.  Tank traps were built on railways.

Pill Box at Government Row
Pill Box at Government Row

Air Raid shelters were built across the three authorities including a shelter at Weir Hall which still survives. The entrance is now covered by bushes and inaccessible to the public.

Surface Air Raid Shelter at Forty Hill
Surface Air Raid Shelter at Forty Hill

The majority of these structures were demolished at the end of the war.

Mr Miller demolishing his Anderson shelter
Mr Miller demolishing his Anderson shelter

Some survived for many years after. Some still exist.

We want to try and identify any that are left. If you know of the remains of a public air raid shelter, wardens’ post, pill box or any other Second World War structure please let us know.

Phone: 0208 379 2724

Email: local.history@enfield.gov.uk

Or in person at Local Studies Archive and Library, First Floor, Thomas Hardy House, 39 London Road, EN2 6DS. We are open 9.30 to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Plan for public air raid shelter in Compton Road
Plan for public air raid shelter in Compton Road

Air Raid Shelters

During the First World War local authorities were unprepared for air raids on civilian targets. Enfield Urban District Council did not provide air raid shelters instead advising people to stay in their homes. Southgate set aside parts of Bowes Road and Winchmore Hill schools as shelters. Edmonton allowed people to shelter in the Town Hall and later in the railway arches on Bridge Road. Some people constructed their own shelters in their back gardens.

With the advent of the Second World War local authorities were much more aware of the danger to the civilian population from air raids.  Preparations began at the time of the Munich Crisis in 1938. Trenches were dug for people caught in the open to shelter in.

LIBRARY GREEN 1939
Digging trenches on the Library Green Enfield 1939
Oakwood School shelters
Oakwood School shelters

People used many existing structures as shelters: the Underground, caves, basements and railway arches. Companies were legally required to provide shelters for their staff. In January 1939 a programme of shelter building began. The open trenches dug at the time of the Munich Crisis were lined and covered over with concrete or steel. The standard varied greatly. Some were dirty, smelly and prone to flooding. One of the better ones was beneath the car park of the Regal cinema in Edmonton.

Surface shelter Forty Hall
Surface shelter Forty Hall

For private shelters there were two main types. The Anderson shelter was like a miniature Nissen hut made of corrugated steel and sunk three feet in to the ground in the back garden and covered in earth. Two and a quarter million Anderson shelters were provided by the government before the blitz. They were free to people earning less than £350 a year. They were prone to flooding and cramped but could withstand anything but a direct hit. By October 1939 Enfield had delivered 4719 Anderson Shelters to local residents.

Anderson shelter
Anderson shelter

For those who didn’t have a garden there was the Morrison shelter. This was a steel framed box which could be used as a table during the day. Although this provided protection from falling rubble and flying glass during the Blitz it was no use against the V1s and V2s later in the war.

Instructions for assembling the Morrison shelter
Instructions for assembling the Morrison shelter

At the outbreak of War it was assumed that a gas attack was almost inevitable. Local authorities had to make provision for dealing with mass casualties. The plan below was intended for a church in Southgate. The centre of the plan shows provision for 66 bodies and there is a designated bay for dealing with contaminated bodies. Fortunately the expected gas attack never happened and although there were deaths not in the numbers anticipated.

Plan
Click on plan to see details