Terrace house had hidden shelter only picked up in inspection

A hidden reminder of Liverpool's wartime past was found behind the whitewashed walls of a Anfield terrace.

When estate agents agreed to take on the sale of the old terraced home on Gwladys Street, an inspection of the property revealed a rudimentary flight of stairs leading down to an air raid shelter dating back to the relentless bombings of WWII.

Between 1940 and 1942, the German Luftwaffe devastated the city with repeated air raids as they hoped to destroy the UK's largest military stronghold - the Port of Liverpool, which handled more than 90% of war imports from abroad. In total, 2,716 people in Liverpool, 442 people in Birkenhead, 409 people in Bootle and 332 people in Wallasey were killed during what became known as the Liverpool Blitz, and tens of thousands more lost their homes to the bombs and resulting fires.

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As children were hastily evacuated to rural areas, those left behind took other measures to protect themselves in the form of Anderson air raid shelters, provided free of charge to all householders who earned less than £250 a year. These underground shelters, named after the Minister of Home Security John Anderson, were made from metal sheets bolted together with steel plates at either end, could typically accommodate four adults and two children.

Around 3.6 million shelters were built in Britain during WWII, but only a handful remain today.

Homesure Property director Mark Loughnane, whose workmen found the shelter at Gwladys Street, said: "It's like a cellar. It has corrugated iron on the ceiling all held up by big metal poles, and there's a door which presumably leads next door, so I expect it was either shared with the neighbours or it was a means of escape.

"We had no idea what it was at first but it turns out it's more common than you'd think with these old houses. Whatever happens to it depends on who buys it.

"There's no reason to do anything with it; it is just a cellar now and people will use it for storage at best. There's no reason for anyone to go messing around with it because it has stood there for 80 years. It would be a bigger job to get rid of it than to keep it.

"Basically they have done such a good job fitting them it would take a huge amount of effort to get rid of them. They have concreted in those massive steel poles; it would be a huge job getting them out again. My guess is every custodian since then has come to the same conclusion."

Anderson shelters provided a sense of security and some protection to the citizens of Liverpool during the Blitz. But even the most well-built structures could not withstand the force of a direct bomb hit. A heavy raid on November 28, 1940 resulted in what Winston Churchill described as "the single worst incident of the war", when 166 people were killed in an air-raid shelter in Durning Road. A further 156 people were killed in shelters during the Christmas Blitz of December 1940.

Many air raid shelters were demolished after WWII. Those that remain today are frequently used as simple storage space.