The story of Bradford’s biggest air raid shelter

With it’s subterranean world of old tunnels and caves, it’s pretty apparent that Sunbridgewells holds a secret or two. While we have explored many of the goings-on during our popular historic tours, the walls in Bradford’s tunnels still have many a tale to tell. A former 60’s nightclub, brewery and prison, did you also know that Sunbridgewells was an air raid shelter too?

From taking sanctuary in the tunnels to our findings on Inveresk House, read on for the story of Bradford’s biggest air raid shelter…

Trepidation in Bradford’s tunnels

From the 1st of September 1939 until the 2nd of September 1945, as a nation, we were at the mercy of the Second World War. Just one year before combat began, the League of Nations had agreed that, in the event of a general war, they would not bomb civilians. In the eventuality that this agreement did not hold under the pressures of war, however, the government also began heavily investing in precautions and the air raid shelter as we know it was officially born.

Being out and about during a bombing raid could be a dangerous affair. Precious sanctuary could be found in Bradford, however, in Millergate Subway. The biggest air raid shelter in the city, throughout the Second World War the shelter could be accessed via the Sunbridgewells entrance on Aldermanbury. Scary, damp and rammed to the gills with 850 people on one level, taking cover in the air raid shelter was by no means a comfortable ordeal. Still, it was far better than the unthinkable alternative, especially when Lingard’s nightclub was destroyed, only a few hundred yards away.

Britain was subjected to endless nightly attacks by the Luftwaffe in a month-long campaign we now know as The Blitz. Although Bradford was never a priority target, between August 1940 and March 1941 the city suffered a total of four frightening air-raids.

 Pictured: public air raid shelter just off Godwin street.

Pictured: public air raid shelter just off Godwin street.

The History Below Bradford’s Ground Level

When we came across this incredible air raid shelter list (pictured below), we could not believe our eyes. Not only are the tunnels included (Millergate Subway), it would also appear that Inveresk House was once an air raid shelter too. Tunnels developer, Graham Hall, actually worked on Inveresk House 30 years ago and he was completely stunned when he came across this amazing discovery.

When you regenerate a complex as old as Bradford’s tunnels, you can expect there will be a few surprises throughout the labyrinth of old passageways. If you’re inquisitive and eager to explore them for yourself, how about joining us on our next historic tour? With tea and coffee included during the after tour Q&A, simply drop us an email to book your exclusive free place. With three storeys of medieval walkways and roots dating back to the 13th century, who knows what they’d say if tunnels could talk...

 The official air raid shelter list when Sunbridgewells was known as Millergate Subway.

The official air raid shelter list when Sunbridgewells was known as Millergate Subway.

Posted on September 5, 2018 .