• Welcome to this forum . We are a worldwide group with a common interest in Birmingham and its history. While here, please follow a few simple rules. We ask that you respect other members, thank those who have helped you and please keep your contributions on-topic with the thread.

    We do hope you enjoy your visit. BHF Admin Team

Longbridge underground tunnels

David Percival

Brummie babby
In the 60's I had cause to enter some of the tunnels for work reasons. I was told they were built as bomb shelters during the war. The tunnels I entered sloped downwards at the entrace and then back up, the explanation given that the bomb blast would disipate its energy and not be able to roll uphill and injure the inmates. The chap who told me this claimed that it was compulsory for the workers to enter the bomb shelter tunnels for the duration of an air raid but he never did, much to the annoyance of his foreman, he preferred to see where the bombs were landing and miss them! I think he had a point.
At the same times the company also held a private collection of it's notable vehicles (I sat in them all, including a double engined rally mini!). At some time they were moved out of the shop where they were kept and put into one of the tunnels, I believe it was this collection of cars which burned.
 
R

runfromreaper

Guest
The one thing i can remember is there was 2 air ducts in the middle of cofton park they had a fence around them with a hedge and was gated they looked like beehives about 8 foot square
they was padlocked but you could hear factory work from them this was early 70s they disapeared one night in the 80s and grass was laid over them (this could possible be a security risk with the pope visit)
but there was tunnels under cofton park they was flooded and this was possibly a ammunition dump or somthing does anyone know if the tunnels are still possible to be entered and where the entry is

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammunition
 

Arkrite

master brummie
Just to add a few more lines to this saga. I spoke today to one of the many onsite contractors who worked on the utilities of the Longbridge factory.
He said a full survey had been carried out on the underground parts . This would be about the time of the BMW buy out.Many of the bricked up tunnels were entered and checked.He said many places were unsafe. Beneath East Works are three levels of a shadow factory but these are now flooded.

I wonder who now holds the survey maps and detailed reports and findings.? Did BMW keep them or were they archived ? My friend saw them and mentioned the name of the Manager in whose office they were kept.
 

Derelict-UK

master brummie
I think I will add my 2 cents worth of info, pictures and videos I have taken and gathered from Under Longbridge over the last 3 years.

Regarding the open/not flooded bunkers and tunnels dotted around the factory, I have been in virtually all of them.

I am not going to give out the locations to any of these, so please don't bother asking as I won't give you an answer.

There is a bunker with spiral staircases that is flooded on the now St. Mowdem's owned side (in immediate danger of being sealed, if it hasn't already since I was around the area 4 weeks ago).

It is however flooded and St Mowdem's won't allow us to pump it out (we have asked!).

Let's start with East Works...

Directly under the now demolished factory is a tunnel that was built to carry water from the pond above the site (where they tested plane engines), to the stream next to the railway. This is still there, but very clean and boring.

Next under East Works is a bunker that seemed to have been used to log the planes that were built above (we found a piece of chart marked 'Aero 1, Aero 2 & Aero 3') there is also a complete air circulation unit and up to 10 chemical toilets. In one half of the bunker is a room (now burnt out) with obvious metal pipes leading out the ceiling to the (demolished) factory above, this leads me to believe it had a comms room. There are also many separated rooms with wood braced doorways (I expect this was incase of a bomb hit above).

The other half of the bunker, there are 3 rooms, separated by sand bag walls. I have since learnt from a Firefighter that the sand bags were placed down there by the Fire Service who trained their servicemen to search enclosed rooms in pitch black, and the low entries to each room (you have to crawl) were to replicate a roof collapse. The second room is flooded to shin high as it has been blocked by both sand bag walls.

There are 2 main stairwells and 2 side stairwells, all have been blocked.

Let me take you on a guided tour...

Part 1 (9min 17s)

[video=youtube;TEScOoI5480]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEScOoI5480[/video]

Part 2 (7min 15s)

[video=youtube;G_mBDLU8oO0]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_mBDLU8oO0[/video]

Some Pics...













Next

We move from East Works Under the Flight Shed, through the Shadow factory, or the Aero Engine Factory, used during bombing raids.

This was the only purpose built tunnel that was made for manufacturing during Bombing Raids.

There are a few pics of this in use in a book you can see in Birmingham Central Library in the local reference section, or pop into Waterstones and look for the Longbridge book.

The video of our walk through...

[video=youtube;3Ndf40UPAXE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ndf40UPAXE[/video]

Pics...













And some fun in the (pitch black) tunnels...








South Works (Runway) Tunnels


These are the longest tunnels (currently explored) on site, they run from Lickey Road all the way over to the railway on the other side. They run directly across as the earth works did not allow the tunnels to go any deeper in.

They are called the Runway tunnels, named after the runway that was on top before the factory was built in its place. You can see the runway being used in this video...

(from 4min 30s, the hurricane is coming out of the Flight Shed)

Video from www.austinmemories.com

[video=youtube;vapEDE8jtzw]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vapEDE8jtzw[/video]

The tunnels were used as an air raid shelter for the workers and surrounding communities during bombing raids, it was later used as a makeshift mortuary for all the deceased from the bombings.

I do not have a video from down here but do have some pics...
















Now we move on to West Works which I like to call, the 'Body Shop Bunker'

Not much to see here, but here they are anyway...













I hope you all enjoyed my post, if you would like to use the images elsewhere, please contact me through my website (where you can find more Rover pictures in my Archive) www.photoaddiction.co.uk

D-UK
 

OtherHalf

posher half
Great pictures as always of dereliction of interesting sites that could have been put to better use perhaps ... anyway they made me wonder about some of the New structures going up on this particular site ..Sites ? if there are that many tunnels and they have not been filled in ...as it were ...is there going to be any danger of the new buildings subsiding in the future ??? Virusman ... you may get some interesting shots of the leaning folly of Longbridge lol
 

dek carr

gone but not forgotten
Old boy the system is to Pile drive concrete columns to good solid ground and build a concrete raft on them. Dek
 
S

Stitcher

Guest
The following is a letter taken from the opinion and letters page in The Birmingham Mail a fe weeks ago.
 

Radiorails

master brummie
When a youngster, not long after after WW2, I had a lapel badge which was roughly half an inch square in shape, colored blue with a silver 'wings' herald such as that used the Austin Motor Company. It had wording which said Austin Shadow Factory. I had often wondered what the shadow factory was: this thread has now, after some sixty years, told me. :friendly_wink:

Sadly the badge was lost many years ago.

There are many tunnels and underground sites throughout the United Kingdom. One of the most famous - and speculative - in that of Box Tunnel in Wiltshire on the London to South West England main line. There are also may sites on the coast and headlands of the country; one being fairly local to me.
 

tommy

master brummie
great information what a great thread, i worked on the rail way by longbridge and always wondered what steel doors were doing in the embankment (access to the tunnels is the obvious answer)
just up from the station between grovely lane bridge and longbridge station.

regards
tommy
 

rooster1

New Member
Hello, Im considering going down these tunnels with my mate. Is there an easy way to get down there? any information would be greatly apreciated, thanks
 
B

BernardR

Guest
Can't help but found them pretty boring when I last walked them - boredom lifted by need to duck as the engines swung overhead.
 

Dan

New Member
I remember the tunnels at Longbridge. As an apprentice at the Austin Motor Co. 1960, we were sent to collect or deliver things from/to them sometimes. They also stored some of the prototype car bodies, made inhardboard etc., which were experimental designs for future vehicles. One these came onto the market later. The Austin Maxi. Fighter aircraft equipment was produced in the tunnels during the war. I don't think the tunnels extended over very great distances, i.e. not part of Anchor, the Birmingham underground system,
 

Virusman26

master brummie
I've been watching the Longbridge site quickly being demolished since we moved to Rubery last year. All the tunnels have been back filled in as far as I can see, so I doubt anymore video/photo's will be gleaned from them. Shame, as it's one I wanted to see!!
 

Sergio

Petrol Engine Designer
In 1971, I was an engine designer and worked in the Engineering Block at the top of the Test Hill. Most lunch times, I and a couple of pals (Jim and Dick) would wander over to the canteen and then have half an hour to kill. We'd often rummage around in the skips near the development workshops. Amazing what THEY threw out! On one occasion, we explored one of the tunnels which I think we entered from somewhere in the vicinity of the canteen. We must have had a torch because we spent a good 30 mins down there. The tunnel we explored was used for storage and as we walked down, the stored items were under dust-sheets leaving a small passageway for access. Then we came across what were clearly complete cars beneath dust-sheets. The first one we looked at was apparently the millionth Austin ever produced. I recall it was painted in a sort of cream matt emulsion paint and was absolutely covered in signatures! The second car we 'found' was the pre-war Austin 7 Twin Cam racer designed by Murray Jamieson and Bill Appleby, mentioned in detail here https://www.austinmemories.com/page43/page43.html. Both were in a fairly dilapidateds tate, especially the little racing car. But we couldn't report our findings for fear of being accused of trespassing.

I can be accurate about when this story happened because I started at Longbridge in January 1970 and I know the Austin racer featured in the Austin 7's 50th year Celebrations in 1972 which I recall consisted of certain roads being closed around the Birmingham Bull-Ring to allow a parade of relevant cars to be demonstrated to the crowds. The relevance of this is that Lord Stokes, the incumbent boss of BLMC had an attitude of ignoring history and looking forward but when the company agreed to support the 50th Anniversary celebrations, they couldn’t get their hands on this little racer fast enough!

It was first taken down to the engine development shops (the workshops immediately on the right as you entered the factory through N-Gate). The job of getting it running again was given to a couple of the engineers down there, one of whom was a pal of mine known as 'little' Jeff Johnson (to distinguish him from my boss, the chief petrol engine designer, Geoff D Johnson). I think I'd already told little Jeff of our tunnel findings and he called me down when the car arrived in their workshops. They'd already tried to start it and all the external oil pipes had perished and oil was sprayed in every direction. So they removed the engine and dismantled it. I assume the rest of the car then went to the chassis development boys for renovation.

A few days later, Wes Hunt, the Petrol Engine Design manager, told me that my next job was to locate all the engine drawings for the little racer and to redraw as necessary, any detail drawings to enable new parts to be made. I managed to locate all the original drawings in our usual drawing store, some were signed by W Appleby, and drawn around thirty five years before. Being a specialist in cylinder heads and OHC valve-gear design, my eyes stood out on stalks as Little Jeff came up and left me with one of the inverted bucked tappets from this engine. It was HUGE! I'd guess that it was well over 2 inches in diameter which was massive for such a small capacity engine. To keep the tappets light, the skirt was as thin as an eggshell and was drilled with large holes. The valves, camshaft, pistons and con-rods were also replaced with new parts I recall.

Anyway, the engine was reassembled and put on a test bed to check it out and to give it a run before the Birmingham parade. By then the chassis had been renovated and the engine development boys finished the job by reinstalling the engine. My last memory of this little car at Longbridge is of it standing outside the engine development workshop doors for all to see looking as good as new. What a splendid sight compared to the leaking, corroded car we'd discovered in one of the Longbridge tunnels only a few months before.

What happened to this car? The very last I saw of it was in the Donington Park Museum a few years later where it was on loan as a display item. Who knows where it is today...
 

Adrian Angove

proper brummie kid
During WWII there was a fully equipped First Aid / Hospital Unit and ambulance station within the tunnels ... my Uncle John (as a member of St John's Ambulance) was stationed there throughout the war, while living nearby on the Bristol Road South ... he was also an Austin Aero line worker on the Hawker Hurricane engine production line in one of the tunnels and split his shifts between the two duties ... sadly John died in the 1990s having retired to the West Country.
 
Top