The hidden air raid bunker under St.Nick’s – and how to visit itPosted on: 15 Sep 2023
Local artist Duncan McKellar is offering tours of the history of the Corn Exchange, the surrounding area – and the air raid bunker hidden underneath.
St.Nick’s market at the Corn Exchange is a long-standing, beloved fixture of Bristol. Whether you’re looking for an eclectic bite to eat, the perfect gift, or just somewhere to mooch about in town, St. Nick’s is a real Bristol destination.
Despite that, however, a lot of people don’t know about the history that the surrounds the area – or the history underneath it. Duncan McKellar has set out to change that. Best known in Bristol for his ‘yellow tube’- foam pool noodle-like objects – sculptures, notably those in nearby Castle Park, McKellar is now running tours of Corn Exchange and the surrounding area.
Dressed in a Bristol Auxiliary Firefighter Service jacket, McKellar met us outside the grand Corn Exchange – immediately as the tour began proving his prodigious knowledge as he filled us in on the history of the building, as well as the growth of the harbour and city in general as context to the rest of the tour.
Moving forwards, McKellar produced some impressive reprints of original maps, illustrating the dramatic line drawn by the Bristol Blitz that can still be seen today, and wrapping around onto St Nicholas’ St for more history – as well as our first potential glimpse of the bunker’s resident ghost, Margaret!
The first half of the tour was interesting in of itself, but the main event was yet to come – the bunker itself. Behind a usually publicly-inaccessible door, a simple wooden staircase leads down to an astonishing discovery: an intact air raid bunker (and bar).
Decorated with a mixture of original and reproduction décor and items, the bunker tour turned out to be a mixture of educational wonder and emotive history. McKellar walked us through items invested with WWII history, like real gas masks, and reproduced incendiary bombs.
Deeper in the bunker, McKellar (now adorned with an air raid warden’s helmet) introduced us to real bits of history left in the bunker – such as the genuinely emotive, stunningly preserved (and accurate) pencil drawings of starlet Myrna Loy on the wall.
The tour ends with an introduction to the upstairs spaces of the Corn Exchange, including the spaces used to film shows and movies like the Alex Rider TV series, and the Trial of Christine Keeler – alongside some of the gorgeous original architecture above the current roof of the Corn Exchange.
All in all, it’s a jam-packed tour and a steal at £10 (£5 for children’s tickets). If you’re interested in the tour, you can read more and book tickets on their website.
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Patrick is a filmmaker with so much Bristol in his blood the white blood cells are graffiti'd. Educated at the Northern Film School in Leeds, he’s returned home to be a Videographer and Reviewer for 365Bristol and BARBI. When he’s not messing about with cameras, he enjoys playing guitar, spending far too much time on tabletop RPGs, and being an awful snob about cider. Have a look at his work here, or get in touch at email@example.com.