Family Outings: Stockport Air Raid Shelters

Where did you sleep in the war, Mam?
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The Independent Travel

The venue



Nicknamed "The Chestergate Hotel", this labyrinth, 40 feet below the town centre provided shelter for up to 7,000 people during the Second World War. The mile-long tunnels were boarded up after the war and returned to only 10 years ago. The core areas of the sandstone tunnels have been restored to their original state and visitors can explore the various "rooms", which include a sick bay, a nursing mothers' area, a first-aid post and a canteen where the Women's Voluntary Service provided a warming cuppa. Benches and, later, beds lined the walls and by 1940 the Stockport Air Raid Shelters had become so popular with people from other Manchester suburbs that they had to restrict entry.

Something for children

A visit is a good way to get a sense of what it was like to live through the war. The shelters are popular with schools, although some very young visitors may find the beginning a bit frightening as tours start with everyone being plunged into darkness before a short audio-visual presentation. It's then up to you to make your way around the tunnels, although there are staff on hand to answer questions. With children it's often the basic details, such as the lavatories, that tend to fascinate most, and the facilities here do not disappoint. The lavatory seats are made from scrap oil drums, the cubicles are separated by canvas screens, and there are supplies of ripped-up newspaper hanging on hooks. (It took the younger members of our group a while to work out what it would have been used for.) A Sunday afternoon Family Tour takes in the full extent of the tunnels (adults £3.95, children £2.95, family ticket £11, booking essential). Next Sunday there will be a joint VE Day Party (1pm-5pm, admission free) with the nearby Hat Works Museum, which will include a chance to tour the shelters as well as various games and activities.

Something for adults

A good place for an inter-generational outing if you have relations who have memories of the war. On the first Wednesday of every month there are Explorer Tours (starting 7pm, adults £4.95, children £3.95, booking essential) geared towards adults and older children.

Refreshments

Nothing on site except packets of Victory Vs. There is a family friendly café at the Hat Works Museum on Wellington Road.

Souvenirs

A small selection, including ration-book tea-towels (£3.50) and Home Front posters (£1.25).

Admission and access

Daily from 1pm-5pm. Admission: adults £3.95, children £2.50, family tickets (two adults and two children) £11.

Disabled access: Good - tunnels are on one level.

How to get there

Stockport Air Raid Shelters, Chestergate, Stockport SK1 1NE (0161-474 1940; www.airraidshelters.org.uk)

By car: Stockport is off the M60. There is a pay and display car park in Chestergate and Merseyway.

By bus: a short walk from Stockport Bus Station.

By train: the station is a 10-minute walk away.

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