ST LEONARD'S COURT
Air Raid Shelter
Air raid shelter, built in 1939 and extended in late 1940- early 1941, to serve St Leonard's Court which was built in 1934-38 by local builder Mr F.G Fox. Designed to hold forty-eight people, at the time there were eighty-three flats.
MATERIALS: largely brick but with concrete block walls in the western compartments and on the stair; flat concrete slab roofs. The entrance turret is of Flemish bond brick with a conical tile roof surmounted by a metal weather vane. The shelter is contained within an earth mound within a brick retaining wall c 1m high, with stone coping. Beneath the wall at ground level is a metal plate (it is not known if this extends across the whole shelter).
PLAN AND FITTINGS: the shelter lies east-west, with the entrance at the western end reached through a door in the brick turret from which steps descend to a central corridor. Each side of the corridor are two compartments, for men and women. Westernmost (day) compartments are lined with timber benches and at the outer end have a pair of chemical lavatories behind a brick screen wall. Easternmost (night) compartments are divided by brick screen walls into eight sections; four each side of a central passage. Each has three bunk beds of which a few boards remain, and each has a small wooden shelf with an electric light socket and switch on the underside, with a small wooden baffle to act as a shade. At the end of each partition are numbered hooks, numbers 1-24 in the southern compartment and 25-48 in the north. Each main compartment has a metal ladder at the outer end, which rises to a horizontal metal grille. The central corridor is also lined with numbered hooks. At the eastern end is a stove ventilated through a vertical pipe. Adjacent to the stove is a metal letter box bearing a notice: 'all communications should be signed by those associating themselves with them'.
HISTORY: the air raid shelter was built in 1939 and extended in late 1940- early 1941 to serve St Leonard's Court which was built between 1934-38 by local builder, Mr F.G Fox, who also developed Deanhill Court and Queen's Court to the east of Richmond at much the same time. From early 1938 local authorities were legally required to formulate plans to provide shelter for civilians, while the Munich crisis later that year heightened the need for government to provide guidance on air raid precautions; in 1939, ARP measures became compulsory for industry. The government provided shelters for those below an income threshold, alongside advice for those building their own. Variants on simple modular shelters were designed. Additionally, architects such as Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed standard rectangular plan surface shelters for smarter London shops while W Braxton Sinclair FRIBA designed a sophisticated shelter very similar in plan to the St Leonard's Court example for flats at Queen's Gate, which was published in the Builder in October 1938. Generally however, shelters were functional and basic.
St Leonard's Court air raid shelter proves to be of unusual plan, providing a high standard of accommodation, and survives remarkably well. The quality of material used in the superstructure, which is designed as part of the landscaped gardens, is also unusual. It was apparently built by the developer of the flats, who reputedly felt strongly proprietorial towards the development rather than being designed independently, and exceeds the government-led standards in terms of provision and aesthetic appearance. The setting of the flats is intact, complete with gate piers and overthrows. Interestingly, there is apparently no other shelter for the flats and while other communal shelters are known in the Borough, none is of this scale or quality.
SOURCES: Dobinson, C,S, Twentieth Century Fortification in England, Vol VIII, Civil Defence in WWII, protecting England's civil population 1935-45, (1999)
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The air raid shelter at St Leonard's Court, built in 1939 and extended in late 1940- early 1941, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It was built to a high specification providing individual accommodation above the normal government-led standard
* Unusually, most of its fittings survive to give a clear impression of how the shelter was used
* Unusually for an air raid shelter, it is incorporated within the landscaped setting of a contemporary block of flats, St Leonard's Court.