New houses can be full of surprises, in ways that you would never have even expected. Such was the case for British man Simon Marks. He was unknowingly in for the surprise of his life and it all started with the simple act of backing out of his driveway one morning. Without warning, his vehicle got stuck. That seemingly inconspicuous event would end up leading him to unearth a discovery of historical significant that had lay long-forgotten. As Marks would soon discover, it can be simultaneously unnerving and exciting to find out that something has been present on your property for years without notice.
1. Just An Ordinary Man
British man Simon Marks of the sleepy little town of Luton, located in Bedfordshire, England, wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary on the fated morning that would end up turning him into a huge sensation. Much like most of us, he got up expecting to go to work and came home to relax.
At the time, Marks worked as a computer support technician, assisting people with their technical problems. He had also just purchased his first home. Something that he had always dreamed of doing. But what he didn’t know was that the property he’d purchased held a secret of historic proportions just waiting to be discovered.
2. A Decades-Old Secret
Simon Marks, aged 37 at the time, worked in an office setting. As such, it was important for him to get out every once and a while and do something for himself. In particular, he enjoyed spending his weekends out of the house with his family and friends.
And it was on one such weekend while Simon was pulling out of his driveway that he’d get the surprise of his life. The unassuming motorist hadn’t expected anything unusual as he headed out. Without warning, though, he’d accidentally encounter a literal bump in the road that would eventually lead to the surprise of a lifetime.
3. A Small Mishap
Little did he know, but every time Marks went to work or out for a weekend he was literally driving over a decades-old secret just waiting to be revealed. As Simon got ready for one of his usual weekend outings, he’d discover the first piece of the puzzle that’d would lead to an incredible chain of event.
It was on that brisk October day in 2016 that Simon’s faithful car, for some reason, was having trouble backing out of the driveway. It wasn’t that something was wrong with the car itself. It was that something was blocking the way. Simon’s trip was stalled momentarily, it was as if he had hit a rut in the driveway. But hadn’t noticed an impediment before.
4. A Momentary Obstacle
Simon again tried to reverse his car out of his driveway, but something stopped him. The issue was slightly peculiar, but it didn’t immediately rouse concern for Simon. He just pressed on the gas a little harder and he eventually got out and proceeded to head toward his weekend destination, not knowing that the apparent obstacle was much more than it had initially seemed.
As he thought further about the driveway, Marks realized there was certainly something wrong with the pavement. For his sake, he hoped that it was just a rut. Or, perhaps one of the pavement stones had come loose. Still, the matter bugged him and he vowed that he would do something about it immediately upon returning home.
5. Taking A Closer Look
After returning home from his weekend and long-deserved rest, Simon decided that he would take a closer look at the spot in his driveway where he had gotten stuck just days prior. It was obvious from the placement of the driveway stones that something was off.
Initially, Simon supposed that a piece of the pavement had simply been poorly constructed. Or perhaps, he thought, that there had once been a garden where the driveway now was and that it had since been improperly filled in. Either of those scenarios would have been an easy fix. But it quickly became apparent that a much larger issue was at hand.
6. More Than He Expected
As it turned out, a massive hole had appeared in his driveway! Simon Marks began to fear the worst. He worried that his home was situation on top of a major sinkhole; one that could even threaten the entire stability of his newly-purchased residence. So, knowing that this problem was far above his own level of expertise, he called in for reinforcements.
Simon’s first action was to call his father, Gerald, to help him come and inspect the situation. After all, when you are dealing with something way out of your league, you need a new set of eyes to take a look at the situation and hopefully, at least in Simon’s case, quell his fears that disaster was about to befall his entire home.
7. A Giant Crater
“I was just terrified the whole house was going to vanish,” Simon Marks told reporters after the fact. Pieces of pavement just kept coming up and to their worst fears, the large opening continued further downward right underneath the pieces of where Simon’s driveway once stood.
Sinkholes can appear out of nowhere and when they do they can be vicious. They can form suddenly, or over a period of time due to a depression in the ground. They can also be enormous in size. Big enough to swallow not only houses but entire neighborhoods. Luckily for Simon though, this wasn’t the case. It was something else altogether.
8. Further Inspection
As Simon and his father kept digging and removing pieces of the pavement the sinkhole theory was quickly put to an end. Upon further inspection, the rut that was in Simon’s driveway seemed different, almost man-made in a way. Like something that had been covered and not meant to be found.
But indeed the hole had been found, despite the attempts made to hide it. And without any professional tools or equipment, the two started to dig. The process was slow and painstaking but together they stayed strong, determined to get to the bottom of the hole and discover its true purpose.
9. Not A Sinkhole
Much to their delight, Simon and his father were reassured that the hole was no sinkhole and the integrity of Simon’s home remained intact. But even though it wasn’t a sinkhole, that didn’t make the discovery any less impressive. For they were about to find out that not only was the hole used for a very surprising reason, but also a historical one.
Piece by piece the driveway turned into one giant hole in the ground, making it, of course, impossible for Simon to park in his driveway, but that was the least of Simon’s worries surrounding the gaping hole that he had discovered on his property.
10. A New Lead
Just when Simon and his father were about to give up hope and stop the digging completely they discovered something that made them keep on going. They discovered a ladder within the opening in the ground. Rusted and old, the ladder went down into the depths of the hole, meaning that it had indeed been used by people at some point in history.
Yet still, questions still lingered as to why there was a massive hole in the driveway and why there was a ladder leading down into the dark abyss. Only the first few steps of the ladder were visible due to all the dirt and mud build up, but that didn’t stop Simon and his father from continuing their dig.
11. Into The Unknown
After the hole was a bit larger, Simon decided that he would further explore the space with the help of some modern technology. With his smartphone in hand and a selfie stick, he submerged along with the equipment into the black pit in attempt to find out if there was anything else hidden in the dark hole.
Marks entered the opening in the driveway, but mounds of earth prevented him from seeing much. Still, he could make out one important detail. The driveway hole wasn’t just an empty opening, there was far more to the structure than they had initially thought – it was an underground compartment of some sort. Even though it would take far more digging, Marks realized that there was more than just one room of the hidden chamber below the driveway.
12. Unrelenting Digging
With the worries of a sinkhole out of their heads, both Simon and his father kept on digging. The work was grueling and painstaking but they knew in the end that it would all be worth it. Slowly, the large cavernous area started to reveal itself for what it really was.
With the help of just a bit of research on the area where Marks was living, things started to become clearer. The project was even more meaningful due to the fact that Marks and his father were doing all of the work with their two hands. And pretty soon their hard work started to pay off.
13. The Original Owners
Simon Marks had purchased the property in question for around half a million dollars, and the house itself had been built back in 1970. But the land was used long before the house stood there. The elderly couple that had sold the house to Simon were the original owners of the home.
But there was one very important detail that they had apparently forgot to tell Simon when he purchased the property. Perhaps they thought that the information wasn’t important, or maybe they believed that the space below the driveway had been so well covered up that there would never be a need to disclose the information.
14. Confirming Their Suspicions
But in this case, the elderly couple was mistaken. The hidden room, or rooms as Simon believed, wasn’t covered to withstand the test of time. By this time Simon and his father Gerald had a pretty good idea of what they were unearthing. But they had to be certain.
It only took a little scouring through the Internet to confirm their suspicions. As it turned out, many similar sites had been uncovered around the United Kingdom and all you needed to know was a little history of what was going on in the country during the time that the driveway hole was initially constructed to know what it was used for.
15. A Different Time
With just a little bit of investigation, it turned out that the property where Simon Marks’ house now stood was an open field prior to the previous owner’s purchase of the land. The paperwork, however, was less than revealing as to why there was a massive hole in the driveway.
The documentation on the land simply stated that there was nothing but empty land where the house now stood. But how could that be true? Surely somehow a very big secret had been left off of the plans, perhaps intentionally. Or maybe the structure was built during a time in the country’s history that was less concerned with proper documentation.
16. A Wartime Relic
Once Marks and his father Gerald started to do some research on the land, things started to fall into place quite quickly. Even though a house hadn’t stood on the land prior to the previous owners, the land was in a strategic place near a neighborhood. But more telling was the time period in which this underground chamber had been built – wartime.
A man by the name of Sir John Anderson was tasked with preparing the county for war with Nazi Germany and back in the year 1938, it was among his duties to protect Britain’s citizens from the impending onslaught of bombings during wartime. So he came up with a strategy.
17. Sir Anderson
Anderson and his team came up with a brilliant plan to protect Britain’s citizens. He, along with a team of engineers, helped to create a cheap and simple underground shelter that could be buried in people’s backyards, close enough for them to seek shelter at a moment’s notice.
The structures were made from flexible metal walls that would protect people from the falling bombs overhead. The flexible metal walls would be used to serve as a better alternative to concrete walls and over two million of these bomb shelters were scattered around the country. But this wasn’t exactly the type of structure that Marks and his father uncovered.
18. A New Tactic
Just from the construction of the bomb shelter, it was clear that the one that Marks and his father Gerald uncovered wasn’t an Anderson-designed bomb shelter. But it had indeed been built around 1938, not long after a bomb landed in the area near Luton.
With that in mind, the citizens living in the area were in a panic. Knowing that their small city was now a target for incoming German bombs, they quickly devised a plan to create a community shelter that was constructed even better than the one that Anderson had been building all around the country. And it appeared that the one on Marks’ property was of this variety.
19. A New Design
Just from the building of the structure that Gerald and his son Simon found it was clear that this wasn’t one of the Anderson air-raid shelters. When the duo had cleared enough dirt and mud out of the shelter they discovered that the space was far bigger than the Anderson-style air-raid shelters.
In fact, this one had multiple rooms and was constructed out of brick. There were at least two rooms in the underground shelter. This alone proved that the structure had been built much differently than the Anderson shelters. And due to the location of Simon Marks’ home it was clear that the underground structure had been used for the same purpose.
20. The War Continues
During the span of WWII, the German air force strategically bombed parts of London, Liverpool and Birmingham, not far from where Simon’s house sat. This information, as well as the research that had been done and other similar findings, confirmed that the hole Simon found in his driveway had indeed been a decades-old bomb shelter.
And as Simon and his father dug deeper and deeper into the underground shelter, they also found a number of astounding artifacts that proved that what they had uncovered had indeed been from the time of the German bombing of the area. They even had dated evidence.
21. Historical Evidence
In one of the hidden underground rooms, Simon and his father Gerald found a clipping from the Herald newspaper dated from the days of WWII, one of the headlines read “Luton Airport is this the end?” Obviously worrying that the airport would be bombed next by the Germans.
Yet still, in spite of the war, there were still regular articles from the city and the goings-on of daily life in the war-torn country. This artifact just shows us one way that people occupied themselves during their time spent in the underground bomb shelters. But that wasn’t the only artifact that was found in the bomb shelter underneath the driveway.
22. Vintage Remnants
Evidence was also found that proved that the bomb shelter had also been stocked full of food and water to sustain the people who were hiding underground from the incoming German bombs. After all, the people who were held up in the shelter were sometimes there for days at a time.
“It’s incredible to think it has all been made by hand,” Marks later told reporters. The concrete walls had been reinforced by brick and mortar, creating a further buffer from penetrations into the underground structure. Even after Simon Marks and his father unearthed the incredible discovery, their work wasn’t done.
23. Feet On Top Of Feet
The structure was so well-built that even decades later it was still intact, although it had been filled will dirty and mud after the war’s end and covered up, never to be discovered again. But as we learned from Simon’s story, it was eventually rediscovered in one amazing way.
Even after discovering what the structure had been used for, Marks and his father continued to keep clearing out the bomb shelter. “Since Saturday it’s been a case of dig, dig, dig. We’re about five feet down at the moment so it’s just another five feet to go until it’s finished. I think we’re going to have to get a skip in because there’s so much rubbish to get rid of,” Simon stated. And in fact, all that digging led to one more interested discovery.
24. A Dead End?
“One of the walls has been bricked up. I’m 90 percent sure we won’t find out any more rooms but we don’t know. They might have bricked up one of the walls when the house was built to make way for the foundations. If that’s the case we’ll just have to leave it.”
Simon’s story quickly went viral with news reporters flooding into his front driveway just to get a look at the amazing discovery that he had made right in front of his home. But as far as the attention goes, Simon said his interests lay far from the spotlight.
25. A Monument To The Past
According to Simon, he didn’t work tireless hours to uncover the air-raid shelter for notoriety, he did it because he felt that deep down he had an obligation to his country’s rich history. History cant just be swept under the rug and forgotten about, it should be preserved and remembered for future generations.
But what is to become of the structure once its completely cleared? Well, Simon and his father want to restore the shelter and preserve it as part of their country’s historical monuments. According to them, just because the war is now over, that doesn’t mean that it should be buried and forgotten. They want to maintain the shelter for future generations to learn from.
26. A Concrete Block
Simon Marks hasn’t been the only Briton to find bomb shelters in recent years. In 2014, an iconic Anderson shelter was discovered on the grounds of Stoke Community Primary School in Medway, Kent by a student. Harvey Cotton was participating in a school activity outside on what used to be an orchard when he spotted a block of concrete.
Cotton informed his teachers and the school caretaker Chris Poulter went to investigate immediately. He cleared some plants and vegetation near the concrete block and uncovered a a staircase, bricked up wall and a wooden door behind it after some more clearance work. But what exactly would they find inside?
27. Working Light Bulb
Poulter and the students knocked through the bricks to break into the shelter, and what they found was nothing short of astonishing. Covered in a blanket of dust from decades gone by, were milk bottles and other untouched items. But it was the light bulb that surprised them the most.
Poulter ran an extension down to the shelter to switch on the light, and lo and behold, the light bulb turned on after all those years. After some further investigation, it was established that this Anderson shelter was most likely in useby the students of the school during the Blitz, as well as local villagers from the nearby village of the Lower Stoke parish.
28. Education The Young
When a piece of history like an Anderson shelter is discovered, it only makes sense to use it for educational purposes. Once this shelter was found, the school planned to restore the shelter for the students of the primary school in order to give them hands on lessons about WWII.
As part of the effort, volunteers from National Grid connected a power supply to shelter so the clearance work would run smoother and quicker. Principal of Stoke Community Primary School, Anita Meggs reported to Daily Mail about the find saying, “There is so much history in the school, which as been here since the 1800s.” She also explained how the plan to restore the shelter was for lessons and to invite older villagers, who might have used the shelter, to tell of their experiences during the war.
29. Just Your Average Gardening
Another unsuspecting couple from Southampton stumbled upon an Anderson shelter when they called in a gardener to remove a mound of earth in their garden. When Graham and Lizzie Hendra instructed the gardener with that to do, they had no idea this would uncover an very important piece of history.
Soon after the gardener got to work, he hit metal. “We were tidying up the garden and there’s always been a bug heap of dirt behind the garage – like a massive compost heap. So the gardener dug it out and he said there was a load of metal,” Graham told the Southern Daily Echo.
30. What Lies Beneath
The gardener started investigating by digging further and found a hole. Before he even showed Graham and Lizzie, he knew he had found an Anderson shelter. When the couple got home, the gardener had already uncovered a third of the shelter, so they helped him pump out the water and remove the rest of the dirt from the sides.
They were shocked to find that the shelter was in very good condition. “It’s in an amazing condition. There’s no door – just a bit of tin holding the dirt back. It makes you think how horrible it must have been to be in there,” said Graham. While he and Lizzie thought it was really cool to find the shelter in their garden, they believed it would be better off at a local school or with someone who would actually use it. In fact, preserving this shelters is actually quite important as expert Martin Stanley explains.
31. Just Ask The Experts
During the Blitz, he British government gave out many Anderson shelters to people for free to put in their garden. Commenting on the shelter Lizzie and Graham’s gardener found, London-based Anderson shelter expert Martin Stanley said, “Just from the photos it looks like it’s in its original position. It may well have been a builder who made it because it looks incredibly strong. I suspect someone put it a lot of effort.”
Stanley went on to say that preserving these shelters is extremely important because there are very few left. Most were removed after the war for their iron, while others were converted into garden or pig sheds. “It would be a real shame if it was lost for good.”
32. Back To Life
Martin Stanley has an Anderson shelter in his back garden. It rests there, partially submerged in the ground and covered with foliage and flowers. He keeps it there and preserves it as a monument of a time gone by, a time when people needed these corrugated steel and iron structures in order to protect their families.
When Stanley moved into his home 30 years ago, he thought he would be able to get rid of the shelter, but that requires a lot of effort. Instead, he uses for storage and jokes about using it for disciplining his children. What’s more, he opens the shelter for school parties and TV companies. “We’re very fond of it now. It’s quite a feature,” he told The Guardian.
33. Sharing In The Fun
Just down the road from Martin Stanley, is Robert McConnell. This friendly neighbor also has an Anderson shelter in his garden, and his is also semi-buried and covered with flowers and thickets. The condition of this shelter is also pretty much exactly as it was when it was in use in the early 1940s.
McConnell just had to replace the ends of the shelter which had deteriorated from rust, but other than that, this is another shelter that stands as testament to the times. He too uses it for garden tool storage and has offered family members to sleep in there, but it gets very damp down there so no one is really up for that. But there is something even more fascinating about this particular shelter.
34. Surviving The War
Robert McConnell told The Guardian that the entire area opposite his house was destroyed during the Blitz. A bomb even fell on the house, but the shelter survived it all. “The Germans had put up these awful rockets and the whole of that area; every house was destroyed – 17 people were killed.”
McConnell has kept the shelter because he believes in preserving history. And as it turns out, Stanley and McConnell are not the only ones who believe this. In fact, many people with Anderson shelters feel the same way about their discoveries. Take museum professional Liz Johnson, for example.
35. Part Of The Puzzle
Liz Johnson moved into her Leicester house in 2007 from a woman who had lived there since 1927. When she moved in. Johnson discovered a Anderson shelter, as well as Air Raid Precautions relics in the attic and old cigarette cards. While many would find Anderson shelter to look quite bland with their iron panels, hers was actually quite aesthetically pleasing. “It has got wild flowers growing on it. A pair of foxes used to sleep on top of it in the mornings,” she told The Guardian.
Johnson, who works with the National Trust, decided to keep her Anderson shelter. When she found it many of her friends and colleagues told her that she has to preserve it seeing that it’s a “piece of history.” An air museum in Lincolnshire, who already owned a shelter to show children what it was like to experience an air raid, inquired about Johnson’s shelter. She discovered that restoring air shelters has actually become a niche hobby for people who repurpose them as sheds. Martin Stanley actually started a website showcasing such shelters and offers advice on how to build them.
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