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UK Deepdene - World War II Railway Traffic Control Bunker, Surrey - March 2014

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The Visit

I visited with Sentinel who had an excellent knowledge of this site having been a few times already. I wasn't expecting much but was actually pretty blown away, it was my first time exploring such a place and I think I may have developed a bug for seeking out many more. The original communications switchboard is still down there as well as various other bits and the bunker is split into various different sections. The recently landscaped area around the original cobbled entrances adds a fascinating insight into what the place once looked like from outside. There are sets of triangular stone blocks called 'dragon's teeth' once used to deter tanks from approaching the bunker placed strategically around the site to remind you this was wartime. We explored all the woodland surrounding the bunker convinced that there might be more stuff hidden out there and a couple of hundred metres away we found a room built into the hillside which looked like it may have been a small chapel perhaps. It now has inverted crosses and pentagrams inside so it looks like the devil worshippers have been having a hoedown in there recently, I'd love to know what it is if anyone knows. Anyway onto the history of the place which is probably more interesting than anywhere I've reported on before. I may have stolen Ojay's idea of nicking a few historical shots from t'interweb to show what it used to look like so cheers for that, definitely makes for a more interesting report as far as I'm concerned.

The History

When the Southern Railway took over Deepdene House (also known as the Deepdene Hotel) for its wartime Headquarters it discovered that there were natural caves in the grounds. These caves had been acknowledged 300 years before in the diaries of John Evelyn. Because of the natural protection afforded by the location of the caves they were eminently suitable for the development of a bunker to house both the sites switchboard and the Traffic Control. The lawn between the caves and the house was used as a site for the 99foot mast supporting aerials of the emergency radio. The bunker was constructed within the caves which were enlarged to house the 30 staff and once complete their emergency headquarters with office staff was moved there from Waterloo.

Deepdene House

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The network of tunnels included a Control Room, meeting room, 3-position switchboard, battery room, main distribution frame (MDF)/maintainers room, a bedroom for the night officer and an air plant and toilet facilities. A 60-foot vertical shaft at the rear of the complex provided an air inlet and emergency exit. A 4 foot thick concrete slab covered the complex but no protection was provided against a ‘near miss’. The Southern Railway General Manager Eustace Missenden lived nearby and had a switchboard extension in his house. During the air raids he spent many nights there with his wife and it is reputed that the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was a visitor. The bunker consisted of a series of tunnels partly natural driven into the steep hillside to the rear of the former hotel. There were three entrances plus a fourth emergency exit accessed from the hillside 50 feet above via a spiral staircase. Even after the war the exchange remained in use and one visitor in the 1960's remembers three operators and he noticed one of the side tunnels still contained bunk beds.

Night Officer's Room

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British Railways left Deepdene in the mid 1960's and the house was demolished in 1969 with a modern office block being built on the site; this is now the Headquarters of Kuoni Travel. For many years the tunnels lay forgotten in the bushes to the rear of the office block but in 1997 local children started a small fire just inside one of the entrance tunnels and when the fire brigade came to extinguish the it they found the whole network was heavily contaminated with asbestos, so much so that they had to dispose of all their clothes after the incident. As a result of this information, Kuoni commissioned a survey of the tunnels by Redhill Analysts who confirmed that most of the complex and two of the small surface buildings were heavily contaminated with both white asbestos (Chrysotile) and blue asbestos (Crocidolite). Shortly afterwards all four entrances, and the contaminated surface buildings were sealed. In June 1999 Subterranea Britannica approached Kuoni for permission to break into the tunnels to carry out a photographic survey and although English Heritage had previously been turned down permission was granted on the understanding that the entrance was repaired the same day and those people entering the tunnels signed a relevant disclaimer. The bunker has since been left behind and will likely remain under the ground for years to come.

The Pics:

The original entrances

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Not for the faint-hearted this staircase....

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Before and after shots

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The original traffic control switchboard

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I'm not a fan of eight legged freaks and there are many on the way down that sketchy staircase.... :eek:

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Emergency exit

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The dragon's teeth

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The room built into the hillside with signs of devil worship inside....

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More dragon's teeth and probably my favourite shot from the day....

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More shots can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157644074503713/

Hope you enjoyed looking, I really enjoyed putting this one together so thanks for checking it out :thumb

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Shit you're onto me SK! :Gulp:

Cheers for the nice comments guys, and yes we did wear masks down there...don't always wear one when I probably should but that place was a must :thumb

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