Harpenden Air Raid Shelters, St Albans, Hertfordshire
Interpreting the WWII community air raid shelters in the town
“An opportunity to create two engaging and exciting interpretation panels.“
(Partner – The Maltings Heritage Interpretation)
In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, Harpenden Urban District Council commissioned four underground community air raid shelters for the protection of those people caught away from home when the sirens sounded. After the war ended it was deemed too costly to remove the shelters so they were sealed, hidden from view, their roofs just one metre below ground. Following an archaeological survey in 2007 the Council were presented with three options going forward: To maintain in their current state (which carried a number of public safety issues), to permanently infill the shelters, or to open them to visitors together with appropriate interpretation. Latterly, it was decided that two of the shelters – Bowers Parade and Leyton Green – should be permanently infilled. However, the Urban District Council decided to interpret the two sites for posterity and so looked to commission two interpretation panels, one for each site. The panels would include archive imagery together with new cutaway illustrations of each of the shelters and a location map. Much of the text and imagery would be common to each panel, but with small changes appropriate to each shelter at the two locations. The council appointed interpretive consultant and creative writer Carol Parr to develop the text, and she in turn commissioned ourselves to create the graphics.