OK, so this one has been quite a while in the making. The old Art and Design College is probably the most prominent abandoned building in Ashford and back in September I had a scout about and climbed the building, looking for a way in to no avail. After mentioning this on 28 Days Later One Flew East mentioned that he thought that there was a bomb shelter in the grounds somewhere. A few weeks later I went on a hunt for it, which, after an hour proved fruitless. However, that evening I did some more online research and realised that I'd been standing pretty much on top of the entrance. I didn't get another chance to have a look again until last night. I visited with the bare essentials (camera, tripod, P7, no other accessories) in tennis attire.
A note to anyone wishing to visit this - entrance is sketchy and not for the overweight. Exercise caution.
I have been told that the Art and Design College building was once used as a hospital during the war, which seems to fit together with this statement found on Sussex History Forum:
“I was in Ashford Hospital for a hernia operation – in those days they didn’t send you out the next day as they do now. You were in for three weeks with 10 days in bed.
The warning went just before the raid started and all patients who could went to the shelter. Several others and myself were still confined to bed. The raid was carried out by FW190 fighter-bombers, flying very low, presumably the main target was the railway works. There was lots of anti-aircraft fire when suddenly there was a loud explosion – one of the FW190s had been hit and exploded over Stanhay’s Agricultural Engineers in Godinton Road, about a quarter of a mile from the hospital, killing and wounding quite a number. Seconds after, a lump of ceiling crashed down between my bed and the old gentleman in the next bed. On inspection afterwards, they found a lump of the FW190’s engine had come through the roof and lodged in the cross beam between our beds.
After what seemed a long time, the casualties started being brought into the ward and was soon full and camp beds were put in the middle and down the corridor with three men ending up in the Women’s Ward! Some of the casualties were very serious and didn’t make it.
I was 12 and a half when this happened and those days there were no trauma clinics or counselling. You just had to get on with it”
After looking around the College building (possibly more on that to follow) I went over to the entrance to the shelter, and after a very, very tight squeeze, began to make my way around. Above are original chemical toilets.
The shelter reminds me of the Folkestone Remembrance Road bunker in that it was quite small, although lacking in more spacious rooms. The photo above shows metal rails that line this part of the shelter.
There were originally three entrances: two staircases and one ladder, but two of these have now been covered. The shelter was in very good condition really; no flooding although there was a few bits of rubbish from over the years lying around.
Pretty sure that the chair isn't from the original era.
This photo of the ladder was one of the toughest photos that I've taken in terms of setting the camera up. Came out alright though.