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Norwich School hopes to unearth air raid shelters buried beneath its playground

PUBLISHED: 15:14 13 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:14 13 November 2018

Inside the air raid shelters beneath the Norwich School. Picture: www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.uk

Inside the air raid shelters beneath the Norwich School. Picture: www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.uk

www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.uk

A network of tunnels buried beneath a city school’s playground could be unearthed and opened up for access.

Inside the air raid shelters beneath the Norwich School. Picture: www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.ukInside the air raid shelters beneath the Norwich School. Picture: www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.uk

Built in September 1939, the tunnels served as an air raid shelter for pupils of the Norwich School during the Second World War.

During this time, they would have protected hundreds of children and their teachers from German bombers during the Blitz.

For decades though, they have been sealed back up, with the only access point being a small man hole cover in the middle of the play area.

But this could soon be a thing of the past, after an application was submitted to Norwich City Council to install a new access hatch, railings and ventilation for the shelters.

Inside the air raid shelters beneath the Norwich School. Picture: www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.ukInside the air raid shelters beneath the Norwich School. Picture: www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.uk

Jonathan Pearson, fundraising campaign manager for the school, said the application was the first phase in what could hopefully lead to the tunnels being opened up to “interested parties”.

He said: “At the moment, we cannot really get people down there. Therefore, it is difficult to seek the right expert advice on how best they can be used.

“However, we want to try and open up something that has a real heritage significance to the school and the city as a whole.”

Mr Pearson said, were the application a success, it would allow the school to bring in heritage experts to inspect the tunnels and assess how they could be utilised in future.

Inside the air raid shelters beneath the Norwich School. Picture: www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.ukInside the air raid shelters beneath the Norwich School. Picture: www.dibsmccalumphotography.co.uk

He added: “Step one is simply to allow proper access. However, once this is there we can look at what could be done to open them up to interested parties.

“These could be children at the school, but also heritage groups and those with an interest in history.”

The series of tunnels run beneath the playground on the school, close to where its former Lodge building stood, which was devastated by bombs on June 29, 1942.

The construction of the shelters saw an expansion of the school holidays for pupils in 1939, with war declared in September of that year.

Jonathan Pearson, fundraising campaigns manager at the Norwich School. Picture: David HannantJonathan Pearson, fundraising campaigns manager at the Norwich School. Picture: David Hannant

The application’s design and access statement states that if approved, any work would be carried out in consultation with Roland Harris, archaeologist of Norwich Cathedral.

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