SECOND WORLD WAR
EXETER UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
Andrew, Jane and Mike Passmore
1. Introduction 2
2. Background 2
3. Location 3
4. Description 3
5. Ground Plan and Elevations 4
6. Photographic Record 5
7. Sources 7
8. Acknowledgments 7
Copyright text and photographs © 2011 Andrew, Jane and Mike Passmore
50 Southbrook Road, Countess Wear, Exeter, EX2 6JE.
During the Second World War many types of shelter were used to afford protection to the
civilian population against an air raid. These ranged from natural caves in some areas of the
country, and the underground railway in London, to purpose-built structures for use at home
or in public places, the latter provided as a result of legislation. The most familiar were
probably the Anderson and Morrison shelters, as well as street and basement shelters.
Named after Sir John Anderson, the Home Secretary at the outbreak of war, Anderson
shelters were erected in the gardens of private houses. Partially buried and earth protected,
they were constructed of curved, corrugated iron and could accommodate six people.
The Morrison shelter took its name from Herbert Morrison, Minister of Supply in the early
days of the war. This shelter was for home, indoor use and comprised a steel-topped frame
with wire-mesh grilles on all sides. The shelter could be used not only as a sleeping facility
but also as a domestic table.
Both Anderson and Morrison shelters were supplied free to those on low incomes. A report in
the Exeter City Archives, held at the Devon Record Office, mentions free provision to those
whose income did not exceed €250 per annum.
Air-raid shelters were also made available to the general public and took the form of
basement shelters, underground facilities, or surface brick structures with reinforced
concrete roofs. Entrances/exits to the latter were usually protected by a blast wall, or were
traversed to safeguard against blast damage.
Within the Exeter City Archives are papers originated by the City Engineer and Surveyor and
these record over 180 above-ground shelters in the city’s public parks and streets, and
basements adapted or earmarked for air-raid protection in public buildings such as the Royal
Albert Memorial Museum and in a number of business premises.
Most shelters were demolished at the end of the Second World War, some were let to local
traders for use as storage or workshop facilities, while some simply stood abandoned.
Two of the authors of this report – Mike and Andrew Passmore – are currently (2011)
researching twentieth-century military and civil defence archaeology in Devon, and during a
presentation to a local history society in February 2011 they were alerted to the possibility
of two Second World War surface air-raid shelters still to be seen in the grounds of Hope
Hall at Exeter University, one of the university’s halls of residence.
Contact was made with the University’s Campus Services and a site inspection was
undertaken with a member of its staff. It was readily agreed that in order to record this
important feature of Exeter’s wartime heritage a survey could be carried out. Only one
shelter was identified but an adjacent concrete area was noted. No records have been traced
to suggest that this was the site of a second shelter.
Local street directories record that before, during and after the Second World War Hope Hall
was a hall of residence for the University College of the South West (UCSW)3 and, given its
location, it is thus likely that the shelter was constructed for students rather than for the
general public. In 1955 UCSW became the University of Exeter4.
A measured survey of the structure’s exterior was undertaken, enabling a scaled plan and
elevations to be prepared, and a photographic record was compiled. The structure’s doors
have been blocked and thus there was no opportunity to comment on or record the interior.
It should be noted that there is no public access to the site of this structure.