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1940: Cuckfield's hidden public shelters

In a recent issue helpful advice was given in our columns under the heading of 'What to do in an Air Raid'. In past editions we have indicated where shoppers and others caught in the streets in the in the Cuckfield urban district can go in an air raid. I

The public memory is short, and with a view to giving more explicit details of the shelter available a representative of The Mid Sussex Times visited the several cellars and basement rooms which trades people and private residents have kindly set at the Urban Council's disposal for the purpose.

They are easily accessible from the busiest parts of the district, such as the shopping areas and the railway station and bus stop, and in some cases one would never have realized that such excellent accommodation is available underground.

All the shelters have emergency exits for use should the main entrances be blocked by debris, and in addition to being strengthened by pillars and beams, all plaster ceilings are covered with with netting to prevent huge lumps of material flooring as the result of any vibration.

Electric lighting is provided, and later it is hoped to place in the shelter and oil lamp for use should the electricity fail. Seats and sanitation are also being provided. Many of the shoulders of being kept locked, but the key is a place in small boxes near the entrances. To obtain the keys, the glass of the boxes must be lifted or broken if necessary.

The public should be deeply grateful to those who have so generously put the places at the Urban Councils disposal free of charge, even though some of them were previously in use for business purposes. The only cost falling upon the council is that of strengthening and generally fitting-out the cellars.

It is emphasised that the shelters are intended only for people who are caught in the streets during a raid. People at home, when the warning has given a strongly urge to stop there, making use of alcoves in places under the stairs for greater protection.

Mr EA Bilsby, of Broad Sttreet Bakery, Cuckfield, has provided accommodation for 87 people in a cellar under his bakehouse, and to reach it people will have to go through the shop. Nearer Cuckfield, cellars at Tentercroft (the residence of Lieut Colonel and Mrs KM Callender) could take over 80 people. The entrance is through the back doorway of the house. Accommodation for 60 persons - half of them children - can be found in a cellar at the Old Vicarage.

The list of shelters for public use in Cuckfield and their capacity:

1. Cellar at Bilsby's Bakers. Broad Street, entrance through shop (87).

2. Cellars under Tentercroft (residence of Lieut. Colonel and Mrs E M Callender).

Broad Street, entrance from rear of house (57).

3. Cellar at the Old Vicarage, High Street (residence of Colonel and Mrs AH Bell), entrance at rear of house (60-half children).

Mid Sussex Times 9 July 1940.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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