In an area of woodland, just to the east of the High Street lie sixteen air raid shelters. The shelters were built by Courtaulds in 1939 to protect their workforce from the Luftwaffe. Courtaulds' Halstead factory worked directly on war production during WWII, including weaving fabric for parachutes. There were no air attacks on the factory although 170 visits were recorded in the factory's log of time lost to air raids.
The two offset lines of shelters are close to the former factory. Fifteen of them are Costains, a semi-sunken type, built from preformed concrete arcs and designed to hold up to 50 people. A sixteenth shelter, was built in brick on the surface, had several uses: as a first aid centre, a communications centre and an ARP Warden's post.
Informal research has shown that a surviving group of so many air raid shelters is very rare. To investigate the countywide situation, H21C and Essex Industrial Archaeology Group (EIAG) have joined forces to research and survey industrial air raid shelters throughout Essex.
Industrial WWII civil defence structures are disappearing at an alarming rate, so Halstead is very lucky to still have this piece of history. Their significance has earned them a place in the draft Local Heritage List and they are included in Save Britain's Heritage's Buildings at Risk register.
The verdant land the shelters lie on is part of Halstead Conservation Area but has been promoted for development for 50 years. The new Local Plan allocates it for comprehensive development and suggests demolition of up to fifteen of the sixteen shelters.
These shelters are on Save Britain's Heritage buildings at risk register