Plea to save air raid tunnels

Echo: Plea to save air raid tunnels Plea to save air raid tunnels

CAMPAIGNERS have applied to protect historic bomb shelters underneath a site earmarked for 231 newhomes and a hospice.

Activist group Skipp has called on English Heritage to list the air raid tunnels, which lie 25ft beneath the former Ekco factory site in Priory Crescent, Southend, and, some historians believe, stretch under Priory Park and beyond.

The 75-year-old tunnels were built to protect the electronics company’s 3,000 staff from German air raids, but could be lost forever when BellwayHomes and Havens Hospices redevelops the key site.

Skipp member Mark Sharp believes the tunnels should be saved for “future generations”.

He said: “We all know there is a vital need for housing in Southend and we want to see this site developed for that purpose.

"However, Skipp has a duty to help protect the heritage of our town.

“Considering the cavalier attitude to the remarkable history hidden beneath the Ekco site, we feel we have no choice but to take action.

“We have submitted an application for listed status to English Heritage.

“We would urge Bellway Homes to stop and think. Maybe a few a simple alterations to the plans would allow the development of the housing to proceed and at the same time preserve these unique shelters for future generations.”

Some local historians believe the Ekco shelters are part of a network of wartime tunnels that lead to the airport and a “hospital” for shrapnel victims hidden below Priory Park.

Arthur Woodward, of Bournemouth Park Road, Southchurch, claims to have gone into the tunnels under Priory Park about 30 years ago.

The amateur historian said: “There’s a section that goes into Priory Park, which I believe is still there. They are about 30ft deep. There were seats and a couple of bunks there, if I remember right.

“From them you can go deeper and come out at the airport and on to Rochford.”

Park staff have searched for the rumoured entrance to no avail.

Brian Ayling, Independent councillor for St Luke’s, who is also campaigning for the tunnels to be preserved, said: “I’ve spoken to people who worked at the Ekco factory and they said the tunnels were linked under Priory Park.”

But Judith Williams, who has written a number of books on the history of south Essex, said: “I am very sceptical about all these rumours of tunnels. I think most of them are cellars.

“Many cellars were built with arched ceilings for strength and they look like the beginning of a tunnel.”

An English Heritage spokeswoman said: “We have literally only just received the application to list, so can’t give any more details at this stage.”

Simon May, Southend Council’s group manager for libraries and museums, said: “The Ecko shelters are of interest and as such the council ensured they were surveyed and a public record made by the County Council Archaeological Unit before the land owners filled in the shelters after demolishing their buildings in 2008.

“This is often done in similar situations where structures do not have specific protection in planning law, but it does mean that their location is recorded.

"Items from the shelter have been taken are being kept in storage by the Museums Service.

“In terms of Priory Park, there are no entrances to any underground bunkers in the buildings in the works yard at Priory Park.

“A councillor visit recently took place, organised by a member of the parks team, which confirmed this. Buildings currently used in the works yardwere built after World War Two.

“There is also no evidence to suggest that there are tunnels under Priory Park.

“Both geophysical and archaeological surveys were undertaken in the area of Prittlewell Priory, prior to the renovation works in 2011. These did not show any evidence of tunnels.”

Comments (17)

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10:23am Thu 10 Jul 14

Kim Gandy says...

Well, are they there or not? Somebody must know. There are still people around for whom these will be within living memory.

This is part of our history and I believe our history should be preserved regardless of planning laws and profiteering. Surely if they are there, they can be preserved anyway as they are underground and therefore unlikely to affect housing, unless they pose a significant threat of collapse.

How far was the extent of the geophys testing? If they stretch to Rochford they are obviously extensive. Something of this nature must still exist.

Somebody must have an idea for God's sake. Arthur Woodward says they are there as do other residents according to Cllr Ayling.

Southend Council surveyed them before they were filled in but that doesn't mean there aren't others that have not been filled in.

More effort needs to be made to investigate this. This is a project for archaeological groups - and where is Tony Robinson when you need him?
Well, are they there or not? Somebody must know. There are still people around for whom these will be within living memory. This is part of our history and I believe our history should be preserved regardless of planning laws and profiteering. Surely if they are there, they can be preserved anyway as they are underground and therefore unlikely to affect housing, unless they pose a significant threat of collapse. How far was the extent of the geophys testing? If they stretch to Rochford they are obviously extensive. Something of this nature must still exist. Somebody must have an idea for God's sake. Arthur Woodward says they are there as do other residents according to Cllr Ayling. Southend Council surveyed them before they were filled in but that doesn't mean there aren't others that have not been filled in. More effort needs to be made to investigate this. This is a project for archaeological groups - and where is Tony Robinson when you need him? Kim Gandy
  • Score: 0

10:31am Thu 10 Jul 14

Russ13 says...

So SKIPP are trying to protect things that may not even exist?

It's been a while since they've been in the news so I guess this is a the little excuse they need to rear their heads again.

Perhaps they could do something worthwhile with their time like raid money for local charities or the like?

I'm going with the theory that there were a few cellars underneath the old EKCO building and then rumours developed over the years about this network of tunnels.

Surely when there's been other developments or roadworks in the area some evidence of these would have been found?
So SKIPP are trying to protect things that may not even exist? It's been a while since they've been in the news so I guess this is a the little excuse they need to rear their heads again. Perhaps they could do something worthwhile with their time like raid money for local charities or the like? I'm going with the theory that there were a few cellars underneath the old EKCO building and then rumours developed over the years about this network of tunnels. Surely when there's been other developments or roadworks in the area some evidence of these would have been found? Russ13
  • Score: 2

11:37am Thu 10 Jul 14

Maddogg says...

Dig them all up. No one cares about a few dusty old tunnels. Flatten the lot and get building.
Dig them all up. No one cares about a few dusty old tunnels. Flatten the lot and get building. Maddogg
  • Score: -3

12:03pm Thu 10 Jul 14

CarnMountification says...

Fill them in with concrete, and get on with living for today
Fill them in with concrete, and get on with living for today CarnMountification
  • Score: -2

1:18pm Thu 10 Jul 14

TheaWells says...

**Skipp member Mark Sharp believes the tunnels should be saved for “future generations”. **

why?
**Skipp member Mark Sharp believes the tunnels should be saved for “future generations”. ** why? TheaWells
  • Score: 1

1:54pm Thu 10 Jul 14

andy:) says...

Yeah fill them all in with concrete, why dont we concrete the whole of the Uk while we are at it, jeez..some people on here wont be happy untill we are living in a concrete jungle.

The reason for keeping them is self evident, they are part of our history, teaching youngsters about history, especially related to WW1 & 2 is important in my opinion. Why do you think visitors from abroad visit the Uk and spend many millions, is it to view newly constructed shopping malls and towers ?, no..its down to our interesting and diverse history and buildings something that many countries such as the States simply do not have.
Yeah fill them all in with concrete, why dont we concrete the whole of the Uk while we are at it, jeez..some people on here wont be happy untill we are living in a concrete jungle. The reason for keeping them is self evident, they are part of our history, teaching youngsters about history, especially related to WW1 & 2 is important in my opinion. Why do you think visitors from abroad visit the Uk and spend many millions, is it to view newly constructed shopping malls and towers ?, no..its down to our interesting and diverse history and buildings something that many countries such as the States simply do not have. andy:)
  • Score: 0

1:55pm Thu 10 Jul 14

andy:) says...

TheaWells wrote:
**Skipp member Mark Sharp believes the tunnels should be saved for “future generations”. ** why?
Its called 'history', try looking it up in a dictionary.
[quote][p][bold]TheaWells[/bold] wrote: **Skipp member Mark Sharp believes the tunnels should be saved for “future generations”. ** why?[/p][/quote]Its called 'history', try looking it up in a dictionary. andy:)
  • Score: 5

2:59pm Thu 10 Jul 14

Russ13 says...

andy:) wrote:
Yeah fill them all in with concrete, why dont we concrete the whole of the Uk while we are at it, jeez..some people on here wont be happy untill we are living in a concrete jungle.

The reason for keeping them is self evident, they are part of our history, teaching youngsters about history, especially related to WW1 & 2 is important in my opinion. Why do you think visitors from abroad visit the Uk and spend many millions, is it to view newly constructed shopping malls and towers ?, no..its down to our interesting and diverse history and buildings something that many countries such as the States simply do not have.
We're not talking about creating a concrete jungle though are we? In fact considering the area we're talking about has been utilised for industrial purposes for the best part of a century I'd say new houses and a new hospice are a welcome improvement.

If we never changed anything we'd still be living in mud huts and creating fire using flint!

Now with regards to these tunnels being such an important part of our history & heritage, how comes it would appear that very few, if any people in the area have even heard of them or more to the point, no one actually knows if they exist or not?

I think the good ol' grapevine has perpetuated these mythological tunnels which are probably no more than some old industrial cellars.

If I was going to be more cynical, I'd go as far as saying could this be SKIPP trying to stop the land from being developed so they can set up camp next to the nice new pub?
[quote][p][bold]andy:)[/bold] wrote: Yeah fill them all in with concrete, why dont we concrete the whole of the Uk while we are at it, jeez..some people on here wont be happy untill we are living in a concrete jungle. The reason for keeping them is self evident, they are part of our history, teaching youngsters about history, especially related to WW1 & 2 is important in my opinion. Why do you think visitors from abroad visit the Uk and spend many millions, is it to view newly constructed shopping malls and towers ?, no..its down to our interesting and diverse history and buildings something that many countries such as the States simply do not have.[/p][/quote]We're not talking about creating a concrete jungle though are we? In fact considering the area we're talking about has been utilised for industrial purposes for the best part of a century I'd say new houses and a new hospice are a welcome improvement. If we never changed anything we'd still be living in mud huts and creating fire using flint! Now with regards to these tunnels being such an important part of our history & heritage, how comes it would appear that very few, if any people in the area have even heard of them or more to the point, no one actually knows if they exist or not? I think the good ol' grapevine has perpetuated these mythological tunnels which are probably no more than some old industrial cellars. If I was going to be more cynical, I'd go as far as saying could this be SKIPP trying to stop the land from being developed so they can set up camp next to the nice new pub? Russ13
  • Score: -1

3:04pm Thu 10 Jul 14

SARFENDMAN says...

What is more a shame there is little to remind of the EKCO legacy. The Cater Radio/TV Collection is in storage, so we know what that means. A few radios in the Central Museum is all we have. Guess it's par when it comes to heritage and Southend.
What is more a shame there is little to remind of the EKCO legacy. The Cater Radio/TV Collection is in storage, so we know what that means. A few radios in the Central Museum is all we have. Guess it's par when it comes to heritage and Southend. SARFENDMAN
  • Score: 3

4:18pm Thu 10 Jul 14

runwellian says...

Nobody has seen these tunnels since the year 'dot' so why save them now?
If we saved everything old life would never move on, folk need homes, we need to live in the modern world. There is os much more old junk in Southend that should be demolished to allow todays folk that chance of having a real home.
In a few years there will be nobody alive that remembers the war, we have memorials to remember the folk who gave their lives, that is enough.
It was not a nice time and is best forgotten other than that the heroes who gave their lives.
What si nice remembering who killed who, every soldier British of otherwise, was some mother's son, wounds need to heal, and we need to move on on!

Nobody has bothered about these dust holes all these years, so why now?
Nobody has seen these tunnels since the year 'dot' so why save them now? If we saved everything old life would never move on, folk need homes, we need to live in the modern world. There is os much more old junk in Southend that should be demolished to allow todays folk that chance of having a real home. In a few years there will be nobody alive that remembers the war, we have memorials to remember the folk who gave their lives, that is enough. It was not a nice time and is best forgotten other than that the heroes who gave their lives. What si nice remembering who killed who, every soldier British of otherwise, was some mother's son, wounds need to heal, and we need to move on on! Nobody has bothered about these dust holes all these years, so why now? runwellian
  • Score: 1

5:15pm Thu 10 Jul 14

sesibollox says...

Fill 'em and forget 'em.
Fill 'em and forget 'em. sesibollox
  • Score: 0

7:42pm Thu 10 Jul 14

wevsky says...

considering there is a website with pictures from inside i would say they are or where there!google will reveal the webpage with the pictures fromn 2001 when the place was visited
considering there is a website with pictures from inside i would say they are or where there!google will reveal the webpage with the pictures fromn 2001 when the place was visited wevsky
  • Score: 2

7:46pm Thu 10 Jul 14

ekcoanarak says...

SARFENDMAN wrote:
What is more a shame there is little to remind of the EKCO legacy. The Cater Radio/TV Collection is in storage, so we know what that means. A few radios in the Central Museum is all we have. Guess it's par when it comes to heritage and Southend.
Absolutely correct, without a regular check Im sure most of the historic items will turn out to have disappeared or been damaged.
Judging by many comments on here it Is much like casting pearls to swine anyway.The original stunning art deco building should never have been allowed to have been demolished.
[quote][p][bold]SARFENDMAN[/bold] wrote: What is more a shame there is little to remind of the EKCO legacy. The Cater Radio/TV Collection is in storage, so we know what that means. A few radios in the Central Museum is all we have. Guess it's par when it comes to heritage and Southend.[/p][/quote]Absolutely correct, without a regular check Im sure most of the historic items will turn out to have disappeared or been damaged. Judging by many comments on here it Is much like casting pearls to swine anyway.The original stunning art deco building should never have been allowed to have been demolished. ekcoanarak
  • Score: 2

9:24pm Thu 10 Jul 14

Nebs says...

CarnMountification wrote:
Fill them in with concrete, and get on with living for today
You'll regret saying that when the balloon goes up.
[quote][p][bold]CarnMountification[/bold] wrote: Fill them in with concrete, and get on with living for today[/p][/quote]You'll regret saying that when the balloon goes up. Nebs
  • Score: 0

11:32am Fri 11 Jul 14

SARFENDMAN says...

ekcoanarak wrote:
SARFENDMAN wrote:
What is more a shame there is little to remind of the EKCO legacy. The Cater Radio/TV Collection is in storage, so we know what that means. A few radios in the Central Museum is all we have. Guess it's par when it comes to heritage and Southend.
Absolutely correct, without a regular check Im sure most of the historic items will turn out to have disappeared or been damaged.
Judging by many comments on here it Is much like casting pearls to swine anyway.The original stunning art deco building should never have been allowed to have been demolished.
Short memories for so many. Parts of the original Bandstand are rotting away quietly and conveniently forgotten in the Council Garden Centre near Wakering.
[quote][p][bold]ekcoanarak[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]SARFENDMAN[/bold] wrote: What is more a shame there is little to remind of the EKCO legacy. The Cater Radio/TV Collection is in storage, so we know what that means. A few radios in the Central Museum is all we have. Guess it's par when it comes to heritage and Southend.[/p][/quote]Absolutely correct, without a regular check Im sure most of the historic items will turn out to have disappeared or been damaged. Judging by many comments on here it Is much like casting pearls to swine anyway.The original stunning art deco building should never have been allowed to have been demolished.[/p][/quote]Short memories for so many. Parts of the original Bandstand are rotting away quietly and conveniently forgotten in the Council Garden Centre near Wakering. SARFENDMAN
  • Score: 1

11:38am Fri 11 Jul 14

w-jback says...

The tunnels on the Ecko site existed (maybe now demolished) - this is a well known and documented fact. Its the existence of the tunnels under the park and linking to the airport which is at doubt (and probably one of those silly rumours - why build a tunnel to the airport all that distance and effort for what? why build tunnels under the park?)
The tunnels on the Ecko site existed (maybe now demolished) - this is a well known and documented fact. Its the existence of the tunnels under the park and linking to the airport which is at doubt (and probably one of those silly rumours - why build a tunnel to the airport all that distance and effort for what? why build tunnels under the park?) w-jback
  • Score: 0

10:32pm Fri 11 Jul 14

jayman says...

personally I would place a see-through roof on the tunnels and place some WW2 artefacts in the closed off space below and maintain it as a public exhibition that can bee see into from above.

wait.. I'm giving southend council officers some grade-A ideas here.
personally I would place a see-through roof on the tunnels and place some WW2 artefacts in the closed off space below and maintain it as a public exhibition that can bee see into from above. wait.. I'm giving southend council officers some grade-A ideas here. jayman
  • Score: -2

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