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Woman's last-ditch attempt to save Henley Air Raid Tunnels and Rosherville Gardens in Northfleet


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A mum of three has launched a protest to save a piece of local history.

Kayley Page, of Park Avenue, Northfleet, raised concern about a housing development in Crete Hall Road which could impact a network of underground wartime tunnels running beneath it.

Kayley, along with other concerned locals, took to The Shore to hang up photos of the history of the area to raise awareness of their concerns. Picture: Kayley Page
Kayley, along with other concerned locals, took to The Shore to hang up photos of the history of the area to raise awareness of their concerns. Picture: Kayley Page

Constructed by telegraph cable company WT Henley in 1939, the twisting passages were used as an air raid shelter to shield from German bombing during the Second World War.

The tunnels were crafted into old caves within the Rosherville Gardens with at least six entrances and clear instructions emblazoned on the walls.

However, the Cable Wharf housing development, known as Northfleet Embankment East as part of the Ebbsfleet Garden City project, could close the tunnels for good.

Kayley, who has fond memories of exploring the hidden pathways, said: "It is quite upsetting really, I love my history, and we can't lose this.

"It really is an amazing piece of history and it would be such a shame if it was taken away.

The tunnels that run beneath the housing site. Picture: Kayley Page
The tunnels that run beneath the housing site. Picture: Kayley Page

"The Henley building itself is in a poor state, but it could definitely be brought back to its original glory.

"Once my daughter showed me the site it got me more and more intrigued, I started researching the area, learning about it and it's amazing that we have this piece of local history right on our doorstep."

Part of the WT Henley building was demolished last year to make way for the development.

Ian Mcfaul, technical director for Keepmoat Homes South Midlands, the company behind the plans, said: "The heritage of the Cable Wharf development is a key focus of Keepmoat Homes.

"Through the planning process we have engaged with all key statutory stakeholders to develop a comprehensive Heritage Management Plan.

Kayley has fond memories of exploring the twisting passages. Picture: Kayley Page
Kayley has fond memories of exploring the twisting passages. Picture: Kayley Page

"This plan sets out our obligations to protect and improve the existing heritage through the development.

"The World War II air raid shelters, cut into the toe of the chalk cliff face along the boundary currently sit in the ownership of Gravesham Borough Council.

"Keepmoat Homes have worked with Gravesham BC and Kent County Council Heritage to ensure we provide adequate access through the delivery of the development due to the current access being limited due to previous land raise activities.

"Through the development Keepmoat Homes are actively promoting the existing heritage through heritage trails and interpretation boards for public enjoyment and education."

Kayley Page has launched a last-ditch attempt to save the Henley Air Raid Tunnels from a housing development in Crete Hall Road, Northfleet. Picture: Kayley Page
Kayley Page has launched a last-ditch attempt to save the Henley Air Raid Tunnels from a housing development in Crete Hall Road, Northfleet. Picture: Kayley Page

However - it is not the only piece of local history that Kayley fears is under threat by the construction.

Rosherville Gardens was opened in 1837 and at one point was drawing in a million visitors a year - and was considered to be the 'Euro Disney of the Victorian age.'

The space, which use to sit in Crete Hall Road, where the development is currently being built, featured a famous bear pit, an archery ground, a lake, a maze, a lookout tower, a monkey house, acrobats, a dance hall and a cave that would have housed a 'hermit-type' actor or fortune teller.

In 2016 a petition was launched to uncover the iconic bear pit - which was thought to be the only one of it's kind in the country.

The site of the former Rosherville Gardens, before the Northfleet Embankment East, part of the Ebbsfleet Garden City development, began construction. The Henley tunnels also run beneath the site
The site of the former Rosherville Gardens, before the Northfleet Embankment East, part of the Ebbsfleet Garden City development, began construction. The Henley tunnels also run beneath the site

Keepmoat Homes confirmed at the time it would commemorate the site in line with guidance from local authorities.

It said: "All existing heritage assets have been considered under the Heritage Management Plan.

"Currently the Rosherville Gardens Bear Pit has been protected through the past and current construction.

"Under the current planning consent Keepmoat Homes have committed to protect and enhance the area where the existing bear pit is located within the Italian garden.

"As part of recognising the heritage, we are providing public art in its location.

Sketch showing former bear pit at Rosherville Gardens, Gravesend, with statue of Rosie the bear. Picture: Conrad Broadley
Sketch showing former bear pit at Rosherville Gardens, Gravesend, with statue of Rosie the bear. Picture: Conrad Broadley

"The public art selection process involved key stakeholders, local artists, local action groups and Keepmoat Homes.

"It will be approved through the relevant planning conditions and will be installed before summer next year."

The development will see the creation of nearly 600 homes.

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