Current Heritage at Risk
Halstead Air Raid Shelters
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.
Click here to read the full military archaeology report
Laid out in two offset lines, the shelters are close to the former factory, but with land in short supply, many were built in the gardens of Factory Terrace and Vicarage Meadow. These were all houses built by Courtaulds for their workers so were consider factory premises.
Fifteen of the shelters are Costains, a semi-sunken type, built from preformed concrete arcs and designed to hold up to 50 people. A sixteenth shelter, was built above ground in brick and had several uses: as a first aid centre, a communications centre and an ARP Warden's post.
A 2004 military archaeologist’s report stated ‘if the fifteen (or anything close to it) underground air raid shelters do still survive, they, together with the surface shelter, will probably constitute the most comprehensive group of air raid shelters in Essex.
Our own informal research has shown that a surviving group of so many air raid shelters is very rare. 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 Local Heritage List and they are included in Save Britain's Heritage's Buildings at Risk register.