Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Saturday, 24 October 2009 10:58 UK

Air raid shelters mark 70 years

Stockport Air Raid Shelters entrance
People queued for hours to get into the tunnels

History enthusiasts in Stockport are marking the 70th anniversary of the town's air raid shelters opening.

The shelters, contained in a network of tunnels carved into the town's hills, could house 6,500 people during World War II bombing raids.

Many people queued for hours to get in to the shelters, which became known as the "Chestergate Hotel" because of the relatively luxurious facilities.

Free tours of the preserved tunnels were being run on Saturday.

The main entrance to the shelters was on Chestergate in the town, hence the nickname.

As well as 3,000 beds, the tunnels contained kitchens with running water, electricity and flushing toilets.

Kitchen in Stockport air raid tunnel
The tunnels had running water and electricity

Such was their popularity, people travelled from nearby Salford and Manchester to use the shelters.

It forced the council to dig further into the red sandstone hills on which the town is built to create more space. The tunnel network reached about one mile long.

On Saturday, people were being given tours of the shelters to get a taste of what life was like during the Blitz.

Organisers have also arranged chats with characters dressed in 1940s costume, a play recounting life in the shelters and a tunnel sing-a-long.

Councillor John Smith, executive member for leisure, said: "This event is ideal for people of all generations, giving some people the chance to reminisce and the younger generations the opportunity to learn more about how people lived in the 1940s and how their lives changed with the outbreak of war."

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As well as 3,000 beds, the tunnels contained kitchens with running water, electricity and flushing toilets.



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