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deepdene southern railway control bunker

One more in the area, much bigger than the Redhill one. Some interesting features preserved inside.

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.

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.

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. 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.

Map

Pics



old pic:




Dragon teeth