Brooklands’ WW2 air raid shelter provides a safe haven for Locke-King Vaults

Take one of the UK’s largest surviving underground air raid shelters of WW2 at Brooklands, Weybridge in Surrey. Add the experience of wine warehouse and distribution company EHD London No.1 Bond Ltd. What do you get? The perfect underground vault for professional, secure, fully insured storage within 40 minutes of Central London.

Both the site and the shelter share a fascinating and distinguished provenance. Brooklands was built by landowner Hugh Fortescue Locke-King on his Weybridge estate. As the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit (and then airfield), Brooklands shaped motor sport. By 1907 it had started to host speed record attempts and the first competitive races.
Brooklands Automobile Racing Club (BARC), the British Motorcycle Racing Club and record breakers ensured a busy calendar both up to and after WW1. But in 1939, with WW2 hostilities looming, Brooklands held what was to be its last ever motor race on 7th August. This is where the Locke-King Vaults story really begins.

When war broke out in September 1939, the entire Brooklands site was given over to the Vickers- Armstrongs and Hawker aircraft companies to develop and build military aircraft. Large hangers appeared on the former circuit; trees were sunk in the concrete to help screen the Hawker and Vickers factories from the air.

One fifth of the RAF’s Wellington Bombers – the renowned twin engine bomber – and one fifth of the legendary Hurricane fighters were produced at Brooklands. Sir Barnes Wallace, engineer and inventor of the bouncing bomb, also worked here.

Clearly, the site was a key strategic target for enemy bomber attack. With the need to protect some 5000 aviation construction staff, a vast air raid shelter was excavated and cast.

Concrete-lined, a labyrinth of 2m high by 1m wide corridors became the site’s underground retreat for the staff, complete with gas tight doors, air filtration equipment and water supply. At the end of the war, still in their original condition, the shelters were secured, and have laid dormant for over sixty years. When EHD’s joint Managing Directors Michael and Stuart Phelps had the opportunity to acquire the site in August 2009, they knew immediately it was the perfect storage facility.

Explains Michael: “We’ve been looking for some time for the right premises for long term storage. We were adamant it had to be underground; the constant temperature, ability to control humidity and added security of subterranean vaults is something we knew our clients wanted. After monitoring conditions for over a year in the shelter, we know it’s ideal. The only other fine wine storage operations currently in the UK are either ambient storage above ground, sited several hours away from London or, frankly, very unrealistically priced.

“Through our experience with EHD we can compete at every level: offering a personal, consummately professional service, optimum storage conditions underground, market-leading logistics and fair, flexible rates.”

At the heart of the Locke-Vaults concept is a world-class fine wines team. The new operation will be coordinated and administered by EHD’s current staff from the company’s main offices and warehouse already on the Brooklands estate. EHD currently stores in excess of 268,000 cases on behalf of over 300 clients. Customers include fine wine merchants, major auction houses, premier brands, retailers, media celebrities and private individuals. Business growth has doubled the company’s capacity in just two years.