secrets and spies
Begin your tour underground...
Shh! Begin your tour underground in a secret town and spying from behind closed doors. Nothing is quite what it seems at first glance.
Grab a lantern for a spooky start to our tour, plunging deep underground at Chislehurst Caves. In fact you should really feel safe! The maze of manmade tunnels was dug for chalk to use in lime burning and brick making when London was being built and stretches over six hectares, 30 metres beneath the woodlands. But during WW1 the hidden labyrinth served to store munitions for the Woolwich Arsenal and in WW2 it transformed into an underground town as one of the largest deep air-raid shelters in the country. Just picture it: over 15,000 people took refuge here at the height of the Blitz.
After lunch and a cake in the café at Chislehurst Caves, make the short hop to Hall Place & Gardens, Bexley. On the outside it’s a handsome Tudor country house; on the inside you will discover another secret world – because from January 1944 the US Army’s Signal Corps 6811th Signal Service Detachment set up an intercept station here, codenamed Santa Fe. With the Tudor Kitchen and Great Hall filled with radio equipment, the Americans deciphered Luftwaffe signals and helped in the Enigma code breaking operation, ‘Ultra’. Visit their new exhibition, opening September 13, 2014 and discover the secret life of war time Hall Place and the top secret story of the American code-breakers who lived there in 1944.
By the way...
Beautiful red brick Cobham Hall, en route to your next destination, welcomed recuperating Australian servicemen during WW1. Today, the historic mansion is a renowned independent boarding and day school for girls. Also nearby but well hidden underground is Gravesend Cold War Bunker, in Woodlands Park to the south of Gravesend Town Centre. Built in 1954 as a command post to coordinate local emergency services in the event of nuclear attack, the 13 rooms – you can book a tour – are an eerie reminder of the chill winds of suspicion that blew even after WW2 had ended.