St. Joseph's RC Primary School, Sunderland - 2011
A World War II air raid shelter was excavated during January 2011 by TWM Archaeology in response to the redevelopment of St. Joseph’s Primary School, Sunderland. An earlier evaluation confirmed the presence of the well-preserved shelter first identified by geophysical survey (TWM Archaeology, 2010) following these works it was agreed that the remains of the shelter should be exposed and recorded prior to redevelopment.
The full extent of the shelter was identified in plan and the backfill removed to expose the interior with the exception of the northern extent where it was disturbed by a former substation.
The large shelter consisted of four rectangular blocks of corridor that extended over an area of 66.80m in length by 18.50m width and was constructed using precast concrete panels following a plan known as the covered trench design. Each block of corridors were interconnected and accessed by three entrances (one located between each block). The western side of the shelter was particularly well preserved and with the exclusion of the roof survived to its full height, with even the roof surviving in situ across a toilet alcove at block B. In contrast the eastern portion of the shelter had been heavily disturbed presumably when the playing field was levelled and in places the wall panels were completely removed leaving only the concrete floor slab to mark its position.
Most air raid shelters encountered by archaeologists have already been heavily disturbed; therefore this excavation has provided a rare opportunity to investigate the complete plan and most of the interior of a large air raid shelter. A controlled excavation under the supervision of archaeologists has also enabled the details of construction to be recorded.