Work to refurbish the Arklow Square entrance to the wartime ‘windy tunnels’ has taken place- with plans to include the site in future tours of the Ramsgate Tunnels.
During World War Two the Tunnels provided sanctuary for many thousands of the town’s residents from bombing and shelling. It used the old 1863 mainline railway tunnel and a newly created horseshoe shaped tunnel running from the East Cliff to the West Cliff with entrances dotted throughout the town, so nobody was more than a four minute ‘brisk walk’ from shelter when the sirens sounded.
Among those access points was the Arklow Square entrance which has now had many decades of concrete rubble removed and the former deep entrance doorway restored.
The view encountered by the specialist contractors and team was one that had not been seen since the end of World War Two as various walls and barriers were installed to prevent access.
The work consisted of removing six very large concrete slabs to enable specialist plant to be lowered into the stairwell. Then tons of concrete debris from the “filling in and sealing off” process of 1960 had to be removed. This proved to be a difficult task as the slabs had been cemented in place in and refused to budge initially.
The entrance slabs were reinstated on completion. Landscaping now hides the entrance once more.
Tunnels volunteer Max Streatfield said: “While this work was ongoing, fresh air was once again circulating the Tunnels from this open entrance. We can now understand why they were known as “The Windy Tunnels”.
“Now the stairwell is fully cleared, we will be able to allow the public access to this wonderful original Deep Tunnel Shelter Entrance. The last people to go down these steps without walls, barriers and obstacles would have been during World War Two.
“Initially the Public will gain access from the surface via our Overground/Underground Tours. Descending the 142 steps down to the Link Tunnel will show them just how deep this complex is.
Normally this is a Summer season tour, but we would welcome group bookings through the Winter season. If there is sufficient interest, we can offer Boxing Day and New Year’s Day tours for those seeking a good walk after festivities.
“The continued support of the public enjoying our tours, enables us to improve their experience with projects like this. So, thank you very much to everyone.”