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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shorts Seaplane Factory, Rochester

These tunnels were constructed in 1941 at the rear of the Shorts Seaplane Factory, on the esplanade at Rochester. The original tunnels were two large, brick lined vaults, which were used by the company as a workshop area. These were later connected, by a 1,300 ft tunnel, to a series of underground passages, which were constructed as a public air raid shelter. The air raid tunnels contain a number of original stenciled signs, for 'No Smoking' and for toilets, and are formed of two main parallel tunnels with intersecting spur tunnels. Both the factory tunnels and the air raid shelters have emergency escape adits, which exit in the cliff face at regular intervals or lead to shafts with manhole covers on the surface. There is a great deal of interesting WW2 graffiti to be found in the air raid tunnels, including drawings of planes etc. After the war, the tunnels were used by construction company Blaw Knox as storage, and documents from this time can be found scattered around. The tunnels have remained abandoned since the 1990s, when Blaw Knox left, and a housing estate has been built on the factory site. The tunnel system has now been sealed to prevent further vandalism.

I was able to visit the tunnels as part of a organised tour with the Kent History Fourm, with permission of the housing association who own the tunnels, it is unknown whether further visits will be possible.

Entrance passage to the Factory Tunnels

One of the large Factory vaults

Unlined escape passage

Tunnel leading to the air raid tunnels

Section in the Air Raid tunnels

Another section

Gate in a junction of the tunnels

'No Smoking' sign

Bend in one of the tunnels

One of the exit passages

Emergency escape shaft

In the Medical Area section


Anonymous said...

these tunnels are fascinating, both my grandparents worked for Shorts in the 40s, could i get in there?

Anonymous said...

yes you can but you have to climb through a little gate and then down a ladder and it is fasinateing

Anonymous said...

When I worked at Blaw Knox in the 1970's we used to drive the mini road sweepers that we manufactured then, through these tunnels and store them in one of the large galleries in there. I remember there was even a row of toilets in there!

Anonymous said...

Great pics guys, I also worked at Blaw-Knox in the late seventies within the stores. We used to explore these tunnels in our dinner break. Brings back fond memories. Keep up the great work guys. Well done.

Anonymous said...

where exactly is the access point to these tunnels? this place looks intriguing!

Anonymous said...

Hi, an update on this one: the tunnels are now sealed but access is possible via official trips organised by the Kent History Forum.

JOANNE said...


Anonymous said...

The owners have sealed the entrances to prevent people causing damage to the tunnels or to themselves!

Anonymous said...

How did you get a tour round the tunnels I heard about the tours which I would love to do but I can't find out how to take a tour can anyone help please?

Anonymous said...

Hey dude where was thus entrance please

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where the drain entry point is ?

Anonymous said...

Why would anybody tell you where the way in is? Either legal or illegal? These kind of places need to be protected from the current SCUM that thinks it is fine to tear down load bearing columns, light fires and spray paint the crass out of them. Take nothing but photos, Leave nothing but footprints. Out to you.

Sarah Sami said...

I am quite surprised by the planning of these tunnels. I am pursuing Civil Engineering and currently I am stuck in the planning phase of the dissertation and is looking for dissertation help.