THE mystery of Blackpool Promenade’s underground chamber looks to have been solved.
Theories about the strange rooms, found by builders preparing the foundations for two new slides at the Sandcastle, have ranged from a World War 2 bunker, a pump room for the fountain once located in Flagstaff Gardens, a pirate’s treasure room, and part of a complex of underground war rooms.
However, Blackpool historian Ted Lightbown can confirm the structure is a bunker, built some time around 1942.
He said: “All of this business about people being stumped by what the structure is – I got home and looked at some photos and felt I had it answered straight away.
“My picture from 1942 shows that it is an air raid shelter, built as part of a wider shelter project across Blackpool.
“There is pumping equipment down there and it looks as if they killed two birds with one stone, using the pump room probably from the open air baths. It fits the location – I’ve searched using Lancashire County Council’s Mario maps system and they overlay exactly.”
Workers were shocked to discover a metal grate in the Promenade as they started their excavations – and were even more shocked to discover a 20ft-deep room below, with a door leading to another room off it.
The rooms could not be found on any schematics and government and council officers were unable to shed light on the situation.
John Child, Sandcastle manager, said: “We have filled the hole in now. We also found what appears to be part of an old sea wall down there that predates even the open air swimming pool. The mystery means we are a little bit behind with the installation of the new slides.
“But we think we can get the time back.
“It was nice to get the town talking about it all though.”
A report from the Blackpool Gazette and Herald on August 23, 1941, casts more light on the situation.
In a report headlined: “Protection for 85,300,” we revealed the mass bunker building operation in Blackpool.
The article states: “Blackpool is racing to complete its plans to provide air raid shelters for 85,300 people before the dark days of autumn and winter.
“The remarkable progress of these ambitious plans to protect the town’s increased population from air raids deserves a chapter to itself in the history of Blackpool’s municipal administration.”
The plans included space for 14,000 in public shelters, 50,000 in surface shelters, 4,800 in basement shelters and 16,500 in school shelters.