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What "Hidden" Historical Places are Near Where You Live?


Pete Robin
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Posted (edited)

Since having to give up the physical side of modelling through ill health, history and historical things are an ever growing fascination.

I live in Kingston upon Hull in East Yorkshire, England. In itself the city is quite historical but it's hidden history is continually surprising me.

The first fact I'll chuck out there which most of you won't realise (unless you're really well read), is that the City was, behind London, the most bombed place in UK during WW2. It was never mentioned by name and was, and is, still largely ignored in the history books. 90% of our housing was either destroyed or damaged.

Still, the hidden thing I have just found out about, and which has fascinated me is the "Spoof" Hull Docks site on the south side of the River Humber. On the maps I believe its just marked as ponds, but if you look closely, some of them are very oblong and man made. It turns out they were dug deliberately, laid out in the same pattern as the real thing, with dummy roads etc. and lit at night in an attempt to draw the Luftwaffe away from the City of Hull. In light of the above statement, I don't think it worked.

So what strange and interesting things lurk where you live?

Regards

Pete

 

Edited by Pete Robin
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I forget now the title and author  but there is a novel which refers to the bombing of Hull and the effects on the people of Hull.

 

I believe the fact was in reality the victims were terrified and stressed beyond belief, leading the government to hush it up in case their fears affected the rest of the population.

 

Sorry I can't remember any more detail, hopefully another BM'er will be able to fill in more detail.

 

Here in Kidderminster we have some secret places, there's a disused cold war RSG near here, in the same tunnels that Rover used in aircraft manufacture during WW2, we have had a rocket engine design centre just a few miles from my front door that produced the designs for among other sea slug, sea cat, sea wolf, sea dart and Milan - and which is still working today.

 

Just a few miles down the road, is Croome, where there was a secret radar testing airbase, RAF Defford,  and of course, TRE at Malvern.

 

There are a number of other such secret bases around Birmingham, I'm sure.

 

 

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In the local churchyard, about 3-400 yards from us is the grave of Thomas Blenkinsop. He was the manager at Middleton Colliery and was responsible for building the Middleton Railway that opened in 1812 as the world's first steam railway. The grave is a bit tucked away, but was well maintained. 

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On my cycle ride today I passed the graves of T.O.M. Sopwith and returning that of John Fairey.  I also passed 2 WW2 Airfields but they're not really hidden!

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If we're talking graves;

Not very far from me is the lost actual location of a grave of a high status Roman woman, Important as it is/was the only evidence of any Roman occupation in Ireland

Further away, in Newtownards, hidden away in the corner of a ruined 12th century monastery is the grave of Lft Col, 'Paddy' Blair Mayne of SAS fame

Closer to me, hidden in plain sight, is a WW2 emergency landing ground. It had just a few buildings which are now [ & have been for 30 years] used by small businesses. The two runways still cut through farmers fields but are crossed by four main roads. This ELG was marked on only a few maps and most people, especially the locals and even the people using the buildings don't know it was an ELG

 

Along the coast from me is a small cove where German submarines came in to off-load arms to Irish Rebels in 1912, 1914, 1916, 1918, 1940, 1941, 1943. In the past caches of old guns, ammunition and hand grenades were found in the undergrowth or buried in the surrounding land. Up to about 1984 a row of old cob & thatch fishermen's cottages stood nearby. When the council went to tear them down to widen the main road the Army ATOs had to be called in. They took away 3 trucks full of rifles pistols and other ordnance which had been hidden in the cottages' thatch and buried in their gardens. Hand grenades and other explosives were blown up on the beach, in small batches

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Posted (edited)

Not particularly hidden but I live not far from Weathersfield airfield.  Which is soon to be lost to a double prison development, probably housing, and the small museum that sprang up a few years ago is being evicted.

 

I'm also not far away from a war memorial near Bradwell power station, that many probably aren't aware of.

Edited by RobL
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There are a lot of bunkers over here that remain hidden including the ones that are being restored if you didn't know they were there,the German Naval Signals HQ is in the middle of St Peter Port and right next to a hotel but if it wasn't open to the public and no signage you wouldn't have a clue it was there...

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It doesn't fit into the description of "hidden" places, but Kelvedon Hatch atomic bunker in Essex looks well worth a look. Now that the Covid crisis is close to being over (?), it should be open to the public again. Not been myself, but a genuine slice of Cold war history.

 

Cheers. 

 

Chris.   

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There is a small airfield on the East coast of Scotland, which I've read used to be the site of a lot of SAS exercises. Apparently, it officially doesn't exist....

 

Cheers. 

 

Chris.

 

PS: As some may be aware, there a village in Wiltshire (IIRC) that was taken over by the government in WW2 and used for army-training. The local population were given very short notice that they had to abandon their homes and were given vague promises that they could return one day (it never happened). It seems a great shame, even in times of war. 

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I go to work every morning and roll up on the site of what was the largest airfield in Scotland at the beginning of WW2. There's not much to see now, unfortunately, but before work commenced on our building in 2014 there had to be an unexploded ordinance survey done of the site. 

 

We have the site of one of Britain's biggest battles, completely lost. Only 2 13th Century graves in the local chuchyard. 

 

There's also the Antonine Wall, which you can find if you know where to look but most of the forts can't be identified from the ground. 

 

John 

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Designated a nodal point or Anti-Tank Island and given all-round defenses. Two concentric rings of road blocks circled Northampton. The inner followed the Borough boundary and the outer was thrown out along the main routes into town. There were also four rail-blocks; at Hardingstone Junction, Kingsthorpe railway bridge, Duston Junction and near St. John’s Street station. The Keep (the final centre of resistance) was split into three locations. The Drill Hall at Clare Street formed the Home Guard HQ. The police station on The Mounts and the old regimental depot on Barrack Road formed the other two Keeps. The defence of the town was the responsibility of the 12th Battalion Northants Home Guard, which had absorbed earlier Local Defence Volunteer companies, and those based on works, such as the Express Lifts, Electric Light, Gas and Railway Coys. As tactics were modified, the system of Defended Localities was adopted, and some of the former roadblocks were developed to meet the new demand. At least one pillbox remains and there is a loop-holed wall at Northampton SP765581. Most of the pillboxes were standard Type 22, but by the old power station at Midsummer Meadow there are two quite unusual, circular, open-topped structures SP76516/59617. The town was defended by over 750 concrete AT blocks. A combination fire-watching/defence post, similar to naval police-posts, survive on a factory roof in Balmoral Road.

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Not far from here a memorial tucked away on its own to Richard Hillary, pilot and author, where his aircraft crashed in the Scottish Borders. Not so hidden now with two roads signs giving directions to it. 

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I live a couple miles away from  Coolham where there once was an ALG that was built for the upcoming  Normandy invasion and was the base for three RAF, 2 Polish manned, Mustang Squadrons and later a wing of Spitfire units that remained for a couple weeks or so. All that remained was the fuel pumping house near a public road. The nearby pub has a  very poor replica of a Spitfire in the pub garden.

It was returned to farm land in 1945,46.

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Not far from me is the site of a WW1 airfield that operated from 1916 to 1918. Never knew about it until a memorial stone appeared a few years back! 

 

https://www.abct.org.uk/airfields/airfield-finder/middleton-west-yorkshire/

 

And a couple of miles away is the site of the old Leeds Council War Room from the cold war. It was built in the early 1950's to withstand a Hiroshima sized bomb. By the time it opened the Soviets had developed the hydrogen bomb so they had to build a new one further out from the city centre!  The site has now been cleared and filled in with a house on it! Next door is an old Post Office protected exchange that was built at the same time and is now privately owned. There was also a CEGB control bunker and a Ministry Of Food buffer depot in the same area. South Leeds is a real hot bed of history!

 

Regards,

 

Steve

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A couple of miles away is Tempsford airfield. A few of you may have heard of it. 🙂 Home to nos. 138 and 161 Special Duties squadrons amongst others, it was probably the most heavily guarded airfield in the UK during WW2. 

I have visited the Gibraltar Farm barn, where the SOE agents kitted up before their missions. It’s a sobering experience, for sure. Standing on the remains of the runways, one can imagine Stirlings and Halifaxes lumbering past, lining up for their takeoff runs. Or Lysanders heading off for Manston to top up with fuel for a long flight. The proximity of Old Warden and the Shuttleworth Collection means that there is occasionally a Lysander flying around, something that never fails to get me right in the feels (as I believe the young people say.)

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On 5/14/2022 at 7:30 PM, Pete Robin said:

Since having to give up the physical side of modelling through ill health, history and historical things are an ever growing fascination.

I live in Kingston upon Hull in East Yorkshire, England. In itself the city is quite historical but it's hidden history is continually surprising me.

The first fact I'll chuck out there which most of you won't realise (unless you're really well read), is that the City was, behind London, the most bombed place in UK during WW2. It was never mentioned by name and was, and is, still largely ignored in the history books. 90% of our housing was either destroyed or damaged.

Still, the hidden thing I have just found out about, and which has fascinated me is the "Spoof" Hull Docks site on the south side of the River Humber. On the maps I believe its just marked as ponds, but if you look closely, some of them are very oblong and man made. It turns out they were dug deliberately, laid out in the same pattern as the real thing, with dummy roads etc. and lit at night in an attempt to draw the Luftwaffe away from the City of Hull. In light of the above statement, I don't think it worked.

So what strange and interesting things lurk where you live?

Regards

Pete

 

Hi Pete

I used to work for RB on Danson Lane. The archives there have loads of informative about Hull during WW2 and are open to the public on application.

 

If you want to learn more about the effect of the Hull Blitz, give the archivist (sorry, can’t remember her name) a call and make an appointment - well worth the time!

 

Brian

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Perth and Perthshire are full of history much of which is well known.

 

When I worked along the road In Dundee I frequently took a lunchtime stroll beside the River Tay and close to the rear of Discovery Point is a plaque commemorating the record-breaking flight of the Short Mayo composite on 6 - 8 October 1938. The composite took off from the Tay at Dundee and after separation Mercury under the command of Captain (as he then was) Don Bennett flew 6045 miles to South Africa, which I believe still stands as the world record for a flight by a seaplane. It may not count as "hidden" but it's an interesting piece of aeronautical history which had passed me by until I came across the plaque by chance.

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Donaghadee harbour; hidden in plain view is the structure outlined in yellow

Donaghadee%20March%202022%2C%2003e2-L.jp

Its a WW2 gun emplacement, [aka a 'pill box']  built to oversee and protect the harbour. Most locals think its some sort of 'look-out' post for the local deep sea lifeboat, the orange & blue boat in the harbour

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On 5/14/2022 at 7:30 PM, Pete Robin said:

the "Spoof" Hull Docks site on the south side of the River Humber. On the maps I believe its just marked as ponds, but if you look closely, some of them are very oblong and man made.

You're quite right about the decoys, Pete, though they're on the north bank at The Outstray, Cherry Cobb Sands near Keyingham. Some ponds are rectangular, but others have odd inside or outside corners to simulate the dock corners. Each had a post with a light to shine down onto the water; I think at least one of these posts is still present. Staying on the WW2 theme, there are still quite a few anti-aircraft gun emplacements still in existence around Hull, as well as a much-overlooked spigot mortar mount and original public air raid shelter in the nearest town.

 

In my own village there is a Norman motte and bailey site, a small church with clear Norman features, and the property next door used to be a wheelwright's workshop. My wife is a bellringer in the local Minster, which has allowed me rare access to some incredible nooks and crannies!

 

Jon

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Thanks for all the fabulous replies chaps. I have visions of British rockets with Dan Dare fighting the Mighty Mekon. The tales of public defences are sobering, we really did come that close to invasion.

Mentions of all the Cold War bunkers makes me shiver in the light of recent events/news stories.

Will check out Reckitt's archives Brian. Didn't know they existed, but have trawled around the Hull Archives, was fun.

For those interested in historic airfields, there is always Blackburns (was Hawker Siddely and now BAE) a little way from Hull. Not much action there these days, but can remember seeing the Buccaneers flying from there and of course, the Royal Navy Historical Flight's two Swordfish. They were renovated there.

Thanks for the correction Jonners, just assumed that I knew the positions didn't realise they were that far east. Not sure I know of anti aircraft emplacements, but there were coastal defences in the Forts at the mouth of the Humber and at Fort Paul (which is sadly now closed to the public). These defences have roots back to Henry VIII. 

Keep it up guys, am enjoying ALL your responses. There's a lot to think about.

Regards

Pete

 

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Posted (edited)

Really  fascinating topic. Definitely an interest of mine. I'd  love to  visit most of the  places mentioned. 

 

I live in Galway city. On an aviation theme there's the former RAF Oranmore nearby. Now set up as a possible industrial park although still an  open field and  mooted  once as a possible  airport. Once it was a base for No 2 Squadron Bristol Fighters. A long way from the current  Typhoons in service with 2 squadron.

 

But of course the city is actually  medieval so chock full of hidden history. Not  so hidden are the city walls in the local shopping centre. The medieval streets are not so much fun for us car drivers. 🤨

 

But a lot of it is hidden in plain sight. My brother in law who happens to  be the local heritage officer produced a map showing various medieval  features in the city centre. You'd never know until you had the map. It was very much  an English city at the time. The walls  kept  the Irish  out.

 

There at least four maybe five or six castles  nearby, more fortified tower houses. One restored tower now houses Ukrainian refugees. Imagine  how they feel about finding themselves living in a medieval  tower so far from home?

 

Then there's the Alcock and Brown landing site. I stood on the spot and sank nearly as much  as the Vimy on  the  day in 1919. 😃

 

Chock  full  of history  this place.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by noelh
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The Armstrong-Whitworth work on Lancasters at Sywell involved use of the Corporation Tram Depot in St. James’ End for the assembly, and manufacture of a whole range of components at nearby factories, including Express Lifts, Manfields, Barratts and The Cantilever Shoe Co. The Express Lift Co. ran a number of operations, including the production of 7.2”, 6”, 5.5” and 4.5” naval shells. Bassett-Lowke, the famous model railway makers, produced models of various projects including the Bailey Bridge and the Mulberry Harbour caissons, as well as simulators for AA training. As well as new work in aviation and weapons manufacture, Northamptonshire’s shoe factories still needed to maintain their traditional output. However, here there were also new demands. Haynes & Cann Ltd. Produced a flying boot consisting of a normal civilian shoe with a detachable sheepskin upper. Concealed in the heel was a compass, for evasion, and maps printed on silk were inserted in the leg. The Hanwell Engineering Co. made boltheads.

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The poet John  Donne lived in the house next door to mine during the latter part of his life. The village lower school is named after him.

 

In the churchyard opposite my house lie the remains of Flying Officer Alan Dunn Hopkin. Just after midnight on 10th July 1940, No. 59 Squadron, based at Thorney Island, sent a few Blenheim IVs on armed reconnaissance over France. Two of these had their radios go u/s and became lost on the return leg. Hopkin’s Blenheim exploded over Cardiff around 3am, possibly as the result of friendly fire. He and his crew must have been amongst the first casualties of the Battle Of Britain. 

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