New base for shelter

PUBLISHED: 12:23 13 July 2006 | UPDATED: 10:28 06 May 2010

Sue Fisher is pictured in the shelter with Victor Quashie the Environmental Protection Manager at NHDC (right), who gave support to the cellar project, and Keith Barnes, who led the fabric team of volunteers

Sue Fisher is pictured in the shelter with Victor Quashie the Environmental Protection Manager at NHDC (right), who gave support to the cellar project, and Keith Barnes, who led the fabric team of volunteers

A WORLD War II air raid siren and an Anderson shelter have both found a peaceful new purpose in life – they are part of the British Schools Museum complex in Hitchin. The siren rang out for the first time for many years last week when a cellar was opened

A WORLD War II air raid siren and an Anderson shelter have both found a peaceful new purpose in life - they are part of the British Schools Museum complex in Hitchin.

The siren rang out for the first time for many years last week when a cellar was opened as part of a World War II experience.

Declaring it open, education director Yvonne Limbrick said: "It was my dream to make use of this space but it wasn't going to happen - it was full of asbestos and the cost of removing it was astronomical."

When she tentatively asked Caswell Environmental Services of Stevenage for a quote, they came back with a very surprising one - they offered to do it for nothing.

"They worked throughout a weekend and removed the boiler and every trace of asbestos," Yvonne said.

The British School's fabric team supplied most of the labour needed to install an Anderson shelter, donated by Duxford Aircraft Museum.

Led by Keith Barnes, they also refurbished the cellar, where children visiting the museum will be able to wear replica gas masks and pretend they are living through the Blitz.

Last week also saw the opening of a projects office at the schools, located in a near-derelict cloakroom next to the cellar.

It had given a bad impression of the schools' site to visitors, said Yvonne, and had needed underpinning as well as extensive work inside.

The money to repair it was raised through a fundraising initiative led by Sue Fisher, former Comet reporter and now media officer for North Hertfordshire District Council.

She completed a 22-mile 'Channel' swim, covering a mile a day for 22 days, which won a £3,000 award from Archant, The Comet's parent company.

With Tim and Stella Farr of Tim's Art Supplies she organised an art auction and English Heritage gave a grant towards the renovation costs.

Sue said: "Dozens of people including some of the most talented artists in the area gave donations towards this project. Like everything at the British Schools, it was a long way from being a one-man effort."

The British Schools Museum, including the only schoolroom left in the world where 330 boys were taught by one master, is open to the public on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons for much of the year.

Call 01462 420144 for more details of opening times and activities.

The school hosts a talk tomorrow (Friday) during Hitchin Festival on the spy Sidney Reilly who was the inspiration for James Bond.

For tickets call 01462 453336 or go along for a 7.45pm start.

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