The Secret Tunnels of South Heighton

The Groundsman's Machinery Store.  March 1996.

Beneath Room 4 at the south-eastern extremity of the Guinness Trust Holiday Home was a machinery store and workshop that I found barricaded. I was told that it held nothing of interest to my HMS Forward research so I accepted that. When the contractors arrived on site to demolish parts of the building I noticed the doors to this store were open. I took a quick look inside out of sheer curiosity and could scarcely believe what I saw. The reinforced concrete ceiling was criss-crossed with some seriously strong RSJs that were shored up with mammoth pit props at 6 ft (2 M) intervals. Moreover, part of the ceiling was covered with corrugated iron sheeting, and the whole of that area looked as if it had been recently white-washed - but it hadn't. Whitewash retains its brilliance unlike oil paints that turn distinctly yellow - and there were some examples of that there too.

At the back of the store 'an extension' had clearly been added to provide an emergency escape hatch - and that was not all. Built-in to one wall of the extension were two glazed earthenware telephone cable ducts that headed off in the direction of a footway box in the pavement alongside Heighton Road. This was the evidence I had searched for, for a long time. How nearly did I come to missing it! Further investigation of the store revealed a 6 ins x 9ins (150mm x 225mm) cable hole into the passageway above, and a 2 ins (50mm) pipe that went straight up to the roof. This was all the evidence I needed to conclude that the store room had been specially reinforced as 'protected accommodation' for a switchboard and communication centre from June 1940 to December 1941 when communications were transferred to the newly commissioned tunnel.

It would appear that the Ministry of Works completely overlooked the dismantling of the additional reinforcement in the machinery store during the reinstatement of other building modifications that were carried out in the interests of the Defence of the Realm whilst the property was under requisition to HMG.



Views of the pit props and specially whitewashed area.

This entire area was demolished and bulldozed in the summer of 1996.


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All illustrations and text on this site are 1941-2021 Geoffrey Ellis, or The Friends of HMS Forward, or Nick Catford.