Stockport Air Raid Shelters

The Stockport Air Raid Shelters are a system of almost 1 mile of underground air-raid shelters dug under Stockport, six miles south of Manchester, during World War II to protect local inhabitants during air raids.

Brinksway air raid shelter.

Four sets of underground air raid shelter tunnels for civilian use were dug into the red sandstone rock below the town centre. Preparation started in September 1938 and the first set of shelters was opened on 28 October 1939; Stockport was not bombed until 11 October 1940. The smallest of the tunnel shelters could accommodate 2,000 people and the largest 3,850. It was subsequently expanded to take up to 6,500 people.[1][2]

In 1948, the shelters were sealed off from the public.[3]

The largest of the Stockport Air Raid Shelters have been open to the public since 1996 as part of the town's museum service.[1]



The Brinksway shelter in Edgeley had a capacity for 1,085 bunks and 1,735 seats.[3]

The excavations for the shelter expanded upon the 17th-century Brinksway Caves, which had previously been used as a shelter by navvies working on the Stockport Viaduct.[4][5]


The Chestergate Shelter is the largest and most well known of the shelters, originally able accommodate 3,850 people before an expansion doubled the capacity to 6,500.

The shelter was formally opened on 28 October 1939 by the Mayoress of Stockport.[2]

Due to the 'luxurious' amenities such as 16-seater chemical toilets, electric lighting and a canteen, the shelter was dubbed by locals as the 'Chestergate hotel'.[6][7][8]

The shelter was opened to the public in 1996 as a museum.[1] In 2014, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council announced plans to cut funding to the museum and place it under an independent trust.[9] In 2019, several staff were placed on redundancy notice, with plans announced to cut opening hours the following year.[10] The cut in opening hours and the installation of admissions charges were set to go ahead in April 2020.[11]

Dodge HillEdit

The Dodge Hill shelter in Heaton Norris had a capacity for around 2,000 people.[3]

In 2013, two youths became trapped in the tunnels for over three hours, resulting in over twenty firefighters and seven emergency vehicles attending to rescue them.[12] The following year, over thirty five firefighters arrived to extinguish a fire possibly ignited by rough sleepers.[13]

Fiction and mediaEdit

The air raid shelters were depicted in Geraldine O'Neills 2020 book The Nightingales in Mersey Square, written under the pen name Lilly Robbins. The book centred around two trainee nurses during the arrival of 1,200 evacuees from Guernsey.

During her research for the book, O'Neill visited the Stockport Air Raid Shelters in order to ensure the work was authentic.[14]


  1. ^ a b c "Air Raid Shelters". Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 2016-12-07. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "Half-mile of tunnels 30-40 ft. below ground in main shopping district". Public Works Weekly Surveyor. Vol. 96. IPC Specialist and Professional Press Limited. 1939. p. 493.
  3. ^ a b c Brown, Emma (15 July 2016). Subterranean Stockport. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 1445659999.
  4. ^ Kings Reach Bridleway (Informative sign across river on the Kings Reach Bridleway section of the Trans Pennine Trail). Trans Pennine Trail. 2015. 53°24′24″N 2°10′48″W / 53.406729°N 2.179862°W / 53.406729; -2.179862
  5. ^ Dranfield, Coral (November 2007). "Mersey People: The Local Historian". Mersey Basin Campaign. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  6. ^ Rayner, Chris (1 October 2011). "Stockport Air Raid Shelters Chestergate". Subterranea Britannica. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  7. ^ Yarwood, Sam (28 October 2017). "Take a look around Stockport's forgotten air raid shelter tunnels". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  8. ^ De Graaf, Mia (29 June 2013). "Looking deep into Stockport air raid shelters' past". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  9. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (15 December 2014). "Council could offload running of Stockport's museums in order to save cash". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  10. ^ Adams, Geraldine (7 November 2019). "Stockport museums at risk as Council consults on their future". Museums Association. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  11. ^ Statham, Nick (9 January 2020). "Controversial museum closure plans put on hold following consultation". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  12. ^ Scapens, Alex (20 December 2013). "Warning after two boys get trapped in air raid shelter for THREE HOURS". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  13. ^ Fitzgerald, Todd (20 December 2013). "Firefighters tackle underground air raid shelter blaze in Stockport". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  14. ^ Pringle, Michael (28 July 2020). "Historical wartime saga of evacuees marks a change of direction and name for Cleland-born author". Daily Record. Retrieved 29 January 2021.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 53°24′35″N 2°09′39″W / 53.4098°N 2.1608°W / 53.4098; -2.1608