We visit the incredible Second World War air raid shelter hidden under Bristol city centre

It lay untouched for decades following the end of the Second World War

It’s one of the biggest and best-preserved Second World War treasures Bristol has - and yet hardly anyone knows about it.

The hidden air raid shelter underneath St Nicholas Market and the Corn Exchange has lain almost untouched since the end of the Second World War when the devastating Bristol Blitz destroyed much of the Old City.

Up to 175 traders, brewery workers from Welsh Back and council officers would have taken cover inside the five-room shelter, which was given a ‘homely feel’ with coat hooks, dado rails and signage.

While inside, they would draw pictures on the wall - and remarkably, some of which can still be seen today.

In 2023, the story of the air raid shelter was brought back to life after an artist started a tour of the rooms. Duncan McKellar has also added war-time memorabilia from places like Blaise Castle to help tell the story.

At the time, Mr McKellar said: “Up until now, the site has only been open for the Bristol Open Doors event - but now we have reinstated the shelter to create an immersive experience showing what it was like during the Second World War.

“The level of preservation is remarkable. We have toilet signs, ARP [Air Raid Precaution] posters and even drawings of Hollywood actress Myrna Loy.”

The shelter was built within the old basement of the 1743-built Corn Exchange. Access used to be from the Glass Arcade, but today the entrance is from the Corn Exchange building.

The five rooms include two congregation rooms, an entrance/exit and two toilet rooms. If work goes ahead to create a museum, a new entrance could be created from Exchange Avenue with a lift.

Mr McKellar added: “It needs to be a museum because it is almost unique and so well preserved - it’s a part of our city’s history which should be exhibited.”

The WW2 air raid shelters and rooms are now open for two-hour guided walks on specific dates. The next tours are May 9, 10 and 16, at 11am and 2pm. Tickets are £14 from Visit Bristol.

Here are some incredible pictures from inside the air raid shelter:

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