Jenna has a keen interest in local history and loves nothing more than researching, exploring and photographing forgotten or lost history.
Rumours of Tunnels Beneath Abbey Hulton
There are always rumours of tunnels. The thought of a hidden subterranean world beneath our feet is always intriguing. Unfortunately, most of these rumours are simply not true.
On this occasion, however, they turned out to be real, but they aren't quite tunnels.
The History of Abbey Hulton
Abbey Hulton is a well-known council estate in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. But it does have a rich history that was almost forgotten.
The first record of the area is in the Domesday book of 1086-87 where it is recorded as Heltone, in Pirehill Hundred, held by Robert Stafford. It was recorded as having 3 villagers, 3 smallholders and 1 plough, with woodland.
In 1223 Henry de Audley, a local nobleman, donated a large amount of land for a Cistercian Abbey to be built. Named after the area of Hulton, which is derived from 'hilltown' or 'Heltone', the addition of Abbey is how the modern area earned its name.
The abbey was not wealthy, compared to other grand abbeys of England it was relatively small and poor. The main income came from agriculture such as raising sheep and a tannery to make leather. The abbey was dissolved in 1538 and its lands sold on.
Modern Discovery of the Abbey
After the dissolution, the monastery fell into disrepair and the stone was taken and used for other building work. The land was then owned by Carmountside Farm and was used for agriculture. It was in 1884 during drainage works that the abbey was rediscovered.
There were small scale excavations of the abbey after the discovery but the main excavations were between 1987 and 1994. There have been many interesting and historically important archaeological findings at this site.
If you would like to read more about the abbey, please click here.
Carmountside Secondary School
In 1938 the site was mostly built over with the construction of Carmountside Secondary School. Also known as Carmountside Junior High School.
The school was demolished in 1987 and is now a public open space.
Abbey Hulton in the War
Abbey Hulton in World War 2
Abbey Hulton and the surrounding areas were occasionally accidental casualties during the bombing in WW2.
There were places nearby that the Germans tried to bomb but were unsuccessful, leading to bombs being dropped on nearby residential areas. The Aluminium Works at Milton was one target, Shelton Bar in Etruria was another.
The UK government were prepared for an aerial bombardment. They had to protect the general public and so air raid shelters were constructed. There were a few different types of shelters.
Air Raid Shelters for the School
During the war, the biggest priority of the school was to keep the children safe. So they constructed three separate Stanton Type air raid shelters in the grounds of the school.
Each of these shelters was sunken into the ground between 1.5 and 1m. Each shelter was around 9m long and 2.3m wide. They were constructed out of concrete, with steps at one end for the children to enter and an emergency escape hatch at the other end with a metal ladder.
These three shelters are still visible on aerial photographs taken in 1963/1974.
Luckily there wasn't much need for the shelters and they were only used 7 times during WW2.
The War Years
On 17th September 1940 at 3:20 pm, the school had its first air raid warning. The School Log reports that ‘all children were in the shelter within one minute’. During the next 6 months, there were a further six air raid warnings. Gas mask inspections started on 4th July 1941 and continued frequently.
— Carmountside Primary School 75 Glorious Years 1935 - 2010
Inside the Shelters
I always knew the shelters were there, although for a long time I did not know what they were. I remember as a child I used to explore one of them but then they were sealed up and long forgotten. So I recently started to research them and found a fantastic geophysical investigation that had used ground-based physical sensing techniques to see if the structures were still there,
The top of the concrete escape hatches are still visible but it was great to know that they hadn't been filled in.
We were very lucky to have been able to access one of these air raid shelters and to photograph and record it. The inside of this particular shelter is in great condition. There has been no collapse, the structure is sturdy although the ladder to the escape hatch is rusted and twisted. The steps at the back have been filled in but are still there.
The other two shelters are still inaccessible but hopefully one day we will be able to see inside them.
The Escape Hatch With Metal Ladder
Inside the Shelter
Steps at the Entrance to the Shelter
Inside the shelter
The Escape Hatch of Another Shelter
Protect Our Heritage
It seems a shame to me that these wonderful nuggets of history are just hidden below the ground. They are right next to another piece of our wonderful heritage, Hulton Abbey, two of them actually fall within the bounds of the Scheduled area of the ruins. So it would be fantastic to see them dug out, made safe and opened to the public. Another bit of local history awakened and conserved.
We should be protecting our modern historical structures just as much as our older ones. Home front sites are just as important as other wartime sites around the world and are just as interesting. At least one of these structures is in very good condition considering how long they have been left underground.
- Excavations at Hulton Abbey, Staffordshire 1987-1994 (The Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph
Hulton Abbey was a minor Cistercian monastery in north Staffordshire (England), founded in 1219 and finally dissolved in 1538. This is the final report on the archaeological excavations undertaken there between 1987 and 1994.
Do You Think That These Air Raid Shelters Should Be Preserved and Opened to the Public?
Other Articles by Jenna
- A 250 Year Old Staffordshire Murder Mystery
Hidden in a graveyard in Wolstanton, Staffordshire lies a gravestone that holds a terrible secret. It is at the heart of a murder mystery dating back to the 18th century.
- Lockdown - How One British Village, Eyam, Over 350 Years Ago, Perfected the Art of Quarantining and
in 1665, when London was being ravaged by the plague, one small Derbyshire village received a parcel from London. Unknown to them, the parcel contained the plague and devastated the village. The villagers selflessly quarantined the whole village.
- Mow Cop Tunnel & Tramway
Underneath the unsuspecting village of Mow Cop, lies a tunnel that has been hidden for over around 120 years...
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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Jenna Goodwin