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Mayfield Road Refuge

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Refuge shutter,
© David Fiddimore

Mayfield Road Refuge is believed to have been created as a bomb-proof refuge within a domestic residence to the south of Edinburgh, following the dropping of bombs on the city during World War I, from a German Zeppelin on night of April 2, 1916.[1] The bombardment was reported in The Times of April 5, 1916:

Amsterdam April 4

An official communiqué issued in Berlin today says:

For the third time on the night of April 2-3, a naval air squadron attacked the English East coast, this time the northern part.

Edinburgh and Leith, with the docks on the Firth of Forth, Newcastle, and important wharves and buildings, blast furnaces, and factories on the Tyne were bombarded with numerous explosive and incendiary bombs with very good results. Heavy explosions with extensive collapses were observed. A battery near Newcastle was silenced.

In spite of the heavy bombardment all the airships safely returned and landed.

Note:- We are officially informed that the above statement is of the usual inaccurate and bombastic type with which Germany hopes to delude neutrals and her own public. – Reuter
- The Times, April 5, 1916.

The Mayfield Road Refuge - when the Zeppelins came

The following description and photographs of the refuge shutter were gratefully received from a close acquaintance of the owner:

A rear ground-floor room of a Victorian or Edwardian house in Mayfield Road, Edinburgh, bears singular witness to the World Wars. It was converted to a bomb-proof refuge by the addition of a massive cast steel shutter on the outside wall. The shutter is about 7ft by 5ft, and 1/2 inch thick, mounted on two large iron hinges, and secured by a single small draw bolt. It is over an ordinary Victorian sash window, and effectively turns a room at the center rear of the villa into an air raid shelter capable (with its 2 ft thick stone walls) of withstanding anything other than a direct hit.

It is most likely that the shelter dates from just after the Zeppelin raids of April 1916, when a significant number of civilians were killed by bombs in Edinburgh. It has been recorded elsewhere that this resulted in a short lived frisson of terror throughout the city, and people subsequently fortifying their houses, where possible, with anything that came to hand. As far as I know no other such ad-hoc domestic bomb-proofing in Edinburgh, from that period, remains. The single steel plate from which the shutter is made conforms in size to a standard (small) shipyard plate - perhaps the residents knew someone at Clydebank or Rosyth.

Had the house been modified during the Second World War the more likely additions would have been a Morrison type shelter beneath its substantial stair, or an Anderson shelter in the back or front garden. The house and garden show signs of neither - so perhaps the refuge was operational during both world wars.

The shutter is possibly a unique survivor of a war-generated modification to a domestic property - I know of no other similar example in the UK - and is just as effective now, as it was when first fitted.It is to be hoped that it will not have to be used for the purpose for which it was designed for a third time.

The house is privately owned, and there is no public access. (The map marker shown below merely indicated the area of Mayfield Road.)
- David Fiddimore

Photographs

Refuge shutter


© David Fiddimore

© David Fiddimore

© David Fiddimore

References

1 Night Zeppelins brought first dose of air raid death - Edinburgh Evening News

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