Hidden Second World War air shelter cause of mystery Fortune Green flooding
PUBLISHED: 16:52 26 February 2013 | UPDATED: 16:53 26 February 2013
A World War Two air raid shelter has been revealed to be the cause of decades of unexplained flooding on Fortune Green, which has rendered the green space almost unusable.
After years of mysterious mud-pits and grass not growing on the green in Fortune Green Road, excavators last week finally dug up the remnants of an air raid shelter that was stopping the land from absorbing water.
The surprise discovery was made two years ago when builders came across rubble that had been left behind in 1947 when the air raid shelter, which once protected hundreds of people, was partially destroyed.
When the revelation surfaced, the Friends of Fortune Green began applying for lottery grants and garnering donations to remove the cement that was lodged deep in the ground in order to revitalise the green.
With money from other development work nearby and a large grant from the waste management company, Veolia, who wanted to help clear the land, the final phase of excavation was finally completed on Tuesday (February 19).
The space where the air raid shelter used to be is now being filled with soil and members of Friends of Fortune Green are hoping to build a small children’s park nearby.
Mark Stonebanks, chairman of the Friends of Fortune Green said: “For years the grass didn’t grow very well on the green and it was often waterlogged but no one could quite work it out.
“Builders dug a couple of trial pits and then one day an older woman who lived here was walking by and said, ‘That’s where the old air raid shelter is!”
He added: “Everyone was very surprised - not many people knew about it. We haven’t been able to find any records. “We think they were all lost in the 1960s when Fortune Green went from being part of the borough of Hampstead, to Camden.”
However, Marion Blakemore who was 14 at the outbreak of the War and has lived in Fortune Green ever since, remembers the air raid shelter well.
The 88-year-old said: “I only went once but didn’t stay. It was horrible. If I look back and think about the shelter it’s the smell that comes back.
“Some people went every night, even if there weren’t bombs being dropped. They had a whale of a time, singing and playing cards.”
She added: “After the war it was just left open and was completely dark - local boys would dare each other to run through it.”
McNabb Laurie, executive director of Veolia, which awarded a grant of £23,600 to begin excavations two years ago, said: “This work will secure and improve this valuable green space for all to use and enjoy. I look forward to seeing the completed improvements.”