James discovers a concrete bomb shelter under his York garden – big enough to house a family of four

James Fox in his underground bunker on Heworth Road. Photographs: Iona Miles

A homeowner is considering renaming his house after discovering a substantial underground air raid shelter in his garden.

James Fox and Robert Bunn moved into their home on Heworth Road in 2016 – but it was only after a neighbour asked if they had found the secret Second World War bunker in their garden that they went looking for the shelter.

James said they discovered the shelter had been concreted over and a rockery created on top. It took a day to break through the concrete with a sledgehammer and unearth the bunker.

Steep steps lead about 2.5m underground to the concrete-lined shelter, which would have been large enough to protect a family of four.

York Civic Trust’s Raids Over York project launched last year urged people with air raid shelters in their gardens or yards to get in touch.

But James and Robert’s shelter appears to be one of the more unusual discoveries – given it’s depth and thick concrete shell.

‘Bunker house’

It was concreted over

James said: “There was nothing on the plans, no knowledge of anything.

“I think it was quite an unusual one – to have the skills and access to the concrete and bricks and ability to bore out the ground must have made it quite rare.

“You can’t quite stand up in it, it’s less than six feet tall. We’re really interested in what it might have been used for and what it’s been used for since.”

He added:

  • We are absolutely keeping it and are considering changing the name of the house to make it more well-known. We are thinking about ‘bunker house’ or something.

    We have no idea what it might have been used for in the interim between World War II and now.

James said when they unearthed the bunker it was full of water, and when it was emptied they discovered wood and tiles so he believes it may have been used for storage after the war.

He found a reference to the shelter in the book Looking Back at Heworth : A York Suburb at York Explore and is keen to learn more about its history.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, 11 August), marks the start of the 80th anniversaries of the WWII raids over York.

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