Kennylands Camp + Bishopswood Camp, Sonning Common.

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DigitalNoise

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In 1939, amidst a country preparing itself for war, plans were being created to deal with the expected aerial bombardment from the Luftwaffe. As part of this, thousands of schoolchildren were exacuated from the busy cities and found themselves whisked away to much greener pastures. Some London kids had never seen a cow before, let alone lived in the countryside. Many camps were thrown up around the country to act as boarding schools, with two erected around the village of Sonning Common, north-west of Reading. They were called Kennylands Camp School, and Bishopswood Camp School. These two camps became a huge success, on the 30th of September 1940, Kennylands camp had a visit from the Royal family, and Even Lord Haw Haw; the German propaganda broadcaster got wind of the camp, making remarks about the poor quality of the fish the kids were eating there. The schools ran extremely well over the war years, and even much past that. They seemed to have faded away in the mid 1950's. Kennylands camp was demolished in the 1980's to make room for a care home, whilst the playing fields have recently been bought as a nature reserve for the locals. Bishopswood Camp was partially demolished, with several buildings going up on site (which are now demolished), one area became the Bishopswood School (primary) whilst the majority of the site is now playing fields. A small area of the camp has been left to rot as the woodlands slowly enveloped it. If it wasn't for this, there would be almost no evidence of it's existence.



Kennylands Camp has been somewhere I have driven past, day in, day out since 1992. I have always had some kind of attraction to the site, and have dropped my little sister off to teach gymnastics at the club more times than I could remember. It was only yesterday after research finally paid off and I found out what the site was used for, I thought I'd actually get off my arse and have a look using my own eyes rather than Google's.
Travelling by bike, for once,rather than in the car I noticed a mound in the bushes beside the road. My eyes widened as I imagined what I could have found. I almost dismissed it, until I saw the tell tale lump of concrete over what was an air raid shelter escape hatch.


The mound. The only real giveaway was the small path leading over it.

The hatch, half capped and covered in ivy.


The escape hatch was full of rubbish, almost to the brim. I went a bit crazy clearing the undergrowth around the shelter and discovered the main entrance. Again, this was stuffed full of all manners of crap, from bicycles to bricks.




I then had my camera battery die, I left the spares in a different bag so back home I went. A short while later, I thought I may as well check it out from the inside so crawled into the small hole. I was expecting it to be full of junk, but not FULL of junk!! It was almost up to the ceiling so I couldn't (be arsed to) go any further. It seems this shelter has doubled up as the local skip.




300-350 pupils attended the school during the war, housed in five large dorms. They were mostly from the Beal School in Ilford, essex. All these kids plus staff couldn't have fit inside one single shelter, so there must have been more. There are several mounds near the gymnastics club which could be more shelters, but the mounds are all landscaped and grassed over, so I may never find out. After a good half hour spent cycling around the rest of the site I have concluded that this is the only visible remanant of the site. New housing being built less than ten metres away may have destroyed any other buildings, if any were left.

I was quite chuffed with this, despite the fact it's f**ked, it's only a mile away from my house and I never had a clue. It goes to show, getting the bike out and simply exploring your area really can pay off.


Bishopswood camp is somewhere I have been plenty of times. It took me several years to find out that the place was a school. There was absolutely no references of it on the internet until it was recorded on www.pastscape.com- A great resource. The remaining bits and bobs on the ste are mainly bases for the red cedar huts. There are some chimneys left from these and a semi submerged air raid shelter. The land surrounding these used to be open but since the site fell disused the neighbouring woodland has taken it over. Near the entrance, which is now on a footpath, it looks like there would have been a water feature but there are few remains. Generations of people have dumped various loads of junk including shoes, a go kart, furniture and the odd dolls head has been half buried in the ground, facing upwards in a grim stare.

The main building left is a brick structure. It took me a while to figure out what it was for, but I have come to the conclusion that it was some form of water treatment plant. Joined on to the rear of the building is a large, raised circular pit, it looks like sewage treatment, although there is a specialised sewage treatment site in a nearby field, also disused. There is also a large bick lined square pit infront of the building.





Inside the building there is a plinth for a generator or other plant.


Twenty metres away is the air raid shelter. This is a small stanton type structure, although the concrete doesn't appear to be pre cast.
The number one painted on the entrance leads me to believe there are/were more shelters here but plenty of hunting has not revealed any.


A small partition used to divide the shelter, near the hatch. This was knocked through at some point.




It has obviously been burnt out. I remember it used to have the same brown khaki paint throughout.
It looks like the next load of firewood is being built up.


The shelter's entrance is much clearer than the other's.


Looking up to the capped hatch. The shelter must have been sealed at one point as there have been attempts to breach through the concrete.


The outside of the hatch


There are several remaining chimneys about the site. These would have been built into the end of the dormitory huts. The huts have now rotted away to leave the brickwork and concrete.

One in particular is a bit more fancy than the rest. This makes me think it may have been the chapel.

Plenty of drains are hidden in the leaves, some nasty injury waiting to happen.


One thing that confuses me is this, a brick square built up off the ground, topped with a reinforced conrete slab. It is about 2ft tall, but looks like it's been taken out with explosives. I have wondered if it was access to another, different design of shelter, but I'm thinking it is most likely just a bed for a water tank.


Another thing that really confused me was the date in this set of steps. It looked to have been written when the concrete was still wet. After studying 1940's aerial photographs I have determined these huts must have been erected later on, as they are not visible on the photos, so maybe the date is original.
 

MaBs

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Looks an interesting site with lots of history! :)

It is always amazing when you look what is close to home instead of travelling miles!
 

The_Almo

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I've sent a PM to DigitalNoise, but I used to go to the Kennylands School and can fill in some of the gaps/answer queries about the site. I also have aerial shots (somewhere) of the site taken in 1977, which may be of interest...
 

DigitalNoise

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Hi Almo, I don't think you will be able to PM as you're a fresh member. I'm greatly interested in any information you have from the area, so please don't hesitate!
you can email me at.... digitalnoisephotography at yahoo dot com

I'm looking forward to your response, thanks.:)
 

The_Almo

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Hi DigitalNoise - have sent you 2 e-mails, one diatribe full of history and answers to your queries, and one with a Google Earth image pinpointing where (as far as I can recall) the air raid shelters were...
 

J_a_t_33

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Wow, fantastic, I live in Sonning Common and have spent many many times exploring the bomb shelters and ruins of the old school and also the shelter by millenium green.


Just 3 weeks ago, 2 friends and I decided to have another in depth explore of the ruins in the woods which was cool.

Unfortunatly, for the first time ever, my camera was not on me, so no pics were taken.

around the very back of the building is like a very tiny room under ground with a pipe in it, you can peer through a hole to find it.


Jay
 

DigitalNoise

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Hi Jay, sounds interesting. I'm not far from you, only up by the water tower as you get into town.
Underground room? Is that by the large brick building in the woods? I've explored the area thoroughly, but not as thoroughly as I thought by the sounds of it.

Maybe a trip back there together would be worthwhile?
 

J_a_t_33

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Ah your 2mins away, I'm just round the corner from Chiltern Edge.

Well if you wanna go down give me a pm and I'll meet you if you like.

Jay
 

Trouserama

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Sonning Common Camp

Hiya
I was brought up in Sonning Common and remember the site with about 5-6 nissan huts, what we used to think was a swimming pool, a watertower and lots of old objects that we dug from beneath the floor boards of the huts. Tragically none of the bits and peices survived. We shamefully spent the seventies smashing the site to peices! However dig a little and you may find some treasure We used to call it the army camp as did most kids from the seventies from the village. Nice report. My brother and I went back there just a few weeks ago
 

mctownsend

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In 1939, amidst a country preparing itself for war, plans were being created to deal with the expected aerial bombardment from the Luftwaffe. As part of this, thousands of schoolchildren were exacuated from the busy cities and found themselves whisked away to much greener pastures. Some London kids had never seen a cow before, let alone lived in the countryside. Many camps were thrown up around the country to act as boarding schools, with two erected around the village of Sonning Common, north-west of Reading. They were called Kennylands Camp School, and Bishopswood Camp School. These two camps became a huge success, on the 30th of September 1940, Kennylands camp had a visit from the Royal family, and Even Lord Haw Haw; the German propaganda broadcaster got wind of the camp, making remarks about the poor quality of the fish the kids were eating there. The schools ran extremely well over the war years, and even much past that. They seemed to have faded away in the mid 1950's. Kennylands camp was demolished in the 1980's to make room for a care home, whilst the playing fields have recently been bought as a nature reserve for the locals. Bishopswood Camp was partially demolished, with several buildings going up on site (which are now demolished), one area became the Bishopswood School (primary) whilst the majority of the site is now playing fields. A small area of the camp has been left to rot as the woodlands slowly enveloped it. If it wasn't for this, there would be almost no evidence of it's existence.



Kennylands Camp has been somewhere I have driven past, day in, day out since 1992. I have always had some kind of attraction to the site, and have dropped my little sister off to teach gymnastics at the club more times than I could remember. It was only yesterday after research finally paid off and I found out what the site was used for, I thought I'd actually get off my arse and have a look using my own eyes rather than Google's.
Travelling by bike, for once,rather than in the car I noticed a mound in the bushes beside the road. My eyes widened as I imagined what I could have found. I almost dismissed it, until I saw the tell tale lump of concrete over what was an air raid shelter escape hatch.


The mound. The only real giveaway was the small path leading over it.

The hatch, half capped and covered in ivy.


The escape hatch was full of rubbish, almost to the brim. I went a bit crazy clearing the undergrowth around the shelter and discovered the main entrance. Again, this was stuffed full of all manners of crap, from bicycles to bricks.




I then had my camera battery die, I left the spares in a different bag so back home I went. A short while later, I thought I may as well check it out from the inside so crawled into the small hole. I was expecting it to be full of junk, but not FULL of junk!! It was almost up to the ceiling so I couldn't (be arsed to) go any further. It seems this shelter has doubled up as the local skip.




300-350 pupils attended the school during the war, housed in five large dorms. They were mostly from the Beal School in Ilford, essex. All these kids plus staff couldn't have fit inside one single shelter, so there must have been more. There are several mounds near the gymnastics club which could be more shelters, but the mounds are all landscaped and grassed over, so I may never find out. After a good half hour spent cycling around the rest of the site I have concluded that this is the only visible remanant of the site. New housing being built less than ten metres away may have destroyed any other buildings, if any were left.

I was quite chuffed with this, despite the fact it's f**ked, it's only a mile away from my house and I never had a clue. It goes to show, getting the bike out and simply exploring your area really can pay off.


Bishopswood camp is somewhere I have been plenty of times. It took me several years to find out that the place was a school. There was absolutely no references of it on the internet until it was recorded on www.pastscape.com- A great resource. The remaining bits and bobs on the ste are mainly bases for the red cedar huts. There are some chimneys left from these and a semi submerged air raid shelter. The land surrounding these used to be open but since the site fell disused the neighbouring woodland has taken it over. Near the entrance, which is now on a footpath, it looks like there would have been a water feature but there are few remains. Generations of people have dumped various loads of junk including shoes, a go kart, furniture and the odd dolls head has been half buried in the ground, facing upwards in a grim stare.

The main building left is a brick structure. It took me a while to figure out what it was for, but I have come to the conclusion that it was some form of water treatment plant. Joined on to the rear of the building is a large, raised circular pit, it looks like sewage treatment, although there is a specialised sewage treatment site in a nearby field, also disused. There is also a large bick lined square pit infront of the building.





Inside the building there is a plinth for a generator or other plant.


Twenty metres away is the air raid shelter. This is a small stanton type structure, although the concrete doesn't appear to be pre cast.
The number one painted on the entrance leads me to believe there are/were more shelters here but plenty of hunting has not revealed any.


A small partition used to divide the shelter, near the hatch. This was knocked through at some point.




It has obviously been burnt out. I remember it used to have the same brown khaki paint throughout.
It looks like the next load of firewood is being built up.


The shelter's entrance is much clearer than the other's.


Looking up to the capped hatch. The shelter must have been sealed at one point as there have been attempts to breach through the concrete.


The outside of the hatch


There are several remaining chimneys about the site. These would have been built into the end of the dormitory huts. The huts have now rotted away to leave the brickwork and concrete.

One in particular is a bit more fancy than the rest. This makes me think it may have been the chapel.

Plenty of drains are hidden in the leaves, some nasty injury waiting to happen.


One thing that confuses me is this, a brick square built up off the ground, topped with a reinforced conrete slab. It is about 2ft tall, but looks like it's been taken out with explosives. I have wondered if it was access to another, different design of shelter, but I'm thinking it is most likely just a bed for a water tank.


Another thing that really confused me was the date in this set of steps. It looked to have been written when the concrete was still wet. After studying 1940's aerial photographs I have determined these huts must have been erected later on, as they are not visible on the photos, so maybe the date is original.
 

mctownsend

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Just thought you may like to know that (at least in 1953), if my memory serves me right, there were only two air raid shelters at Kennylands - one on either side of the school field (one girls' end and one boys' end - maybe two each side, but I don't think so - my 79 year old brain doesn't always have accurate memories!). The boys' end is where the nursing home is now. Also at the boys' end was the sick bay - and the assembly hall, which was also used for gym classes, dancing lessons, singing lessons/choir practice, and stage plays. In the center of the driveway, opposite the field, was the dining hall which also doubled as a dance hall for our Saturday Night Dances (followed by a light pre-bedtime snack of lemonade and a rather hard currant bun. (On weeknights we had cocoa and biscuits.) At this point I may as well tell you the rest of our menu:- weekday breakfast was porridge, Sundays was corn flakes with hot milk, and bacon and eggs. Dinners were some kind of meat, potatoes and veg. Tea was usually something on toast (e.g., soft roe, baked beans) or a sandwich and tea, supper was cocoa and biscuits or cake.
On one end of the dining hall was the teachers' lounge and it was also the place where we congregated after dinner to receive our mail (and, for the lucky ones, our tuck-boxes). After dinner (lunch), we went back to our dorms to make our beds and have time for games or writing letters to home, (except on Wednesdays when it was hair-wash day for our dorm.
There was a wide area beside the teachers' lounge and a classroom block, consisting of four classrooms with a veranda all along the front, facing the driveway (and therefore overlooking the 28 acre field). Behind the dining hall was the "Physical Plant" for the whole school. Also a large area where we had "Rural Studies," and gardening classes. Also a classroom block with Woodwork and metal shop and the Domestic Science room. Then came the "New Building" (erected in 1955) which housed the library, geography room, art room (which included easels, several weaving looms (one huge) and a pottery kiln), and the fully equipped science room.
In the middle of the field was the sports pavilion (which strangely enough, was only used by the boys). In back of the pavilion was the soccer field and in front of the pavilion was a 1/4-mile oval, 4-lane running track; and in the middle of that was a cricket pitch and spaces for javelin and shot-put. Close to the drive and outside the track was a 100 yard straight track, also used for hurdles, "wheelbarrow" races and the like. Behind the boys' dorms were the long jump pit and high jump.
Over on the girls' end (next to the air raid shelter) was the netball and tennis hard court. The tennis grass court was between Dorms A (2nd-year girls) and B (1st-year girls) - (two of the three girls' dorms that ended-on to the drive). Dorm C was divided, with dorm (for more 1st-year girls) in the back half and a classroom in the front. The fourth girls' dorm was the third, fourth and fifth year dorm, located behind the girls' washrooms on the other side of the drive. I should mention that all dormitories (except the senior girls dorm), were 100 ft long and housed about thirty pupils.
On the opposite side of the drive, facing A and B dorms, were the Headmaster's and Camp Manager's semi detached bungalows. And behind those were the non-teaching staff living quarters. (I understand that there is a housing in that area now.) Most of the teachers had rooms at the "back end" of the dormitories and there were also large verandas on the back of every dorm. Married teachers had living quarters in a converted dormitory at the boys' end, closest to Kennylands Road. One male teacher had rooms above one end of the assembly hall.
Around the edges of the 28 acre field, a farmer grew some of his crops.
This is a lot longer than I intended, and probably not really appropriate for this venue, so if you can erase it after reading that's fine with me.
 
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mctownsend

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Sonning Common Camp

Hiya
I was brought up in Sonning Common and remember the site with about 5-6 nissan huts, what we used to think was a swimming pool, a watertower and lots of old objects that we dug from beneath the floor boards of the huts. Tragically none of the bits and peices survived. We shamefully spent the seventies smashing the site to peices! However dig a little and you may find some treasure We used to call it the army camp as did most kids from the seventies from the village. Nice report. My brother and I went back there just a few weeks ago
Couldn't have been Kennylands - the school didn't close down until 1980.
BTW - we used to go on an annual picnic/outing to the Peppard chalk pits. I understand they are so overgrown now they are hard to find.
 

night crawler

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I deleted your email address if you want people to contact you I would ask then to PM you. You have a good memory of the place, I'm ten years younger and can't remember that much. PS| Digital Noise is local to you
 

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Just walked through the site (unknowingly) today - there's now a wood panelled fence limiting access from the public footpath that cuts through the site, but the main areas with structures have now been cleared of overgrowth around the remaining structures making it much easier to see (when standing on tip-toes to peer over the fence!).

There have been some planning applications submitted to demolish and build 2 houses on the site, either side of the public footpath. Initially, the applications have been rejected - who knows what will happen next.

PXL_20210226_120731469.jpg
PXL_20210226_120626050.jpg
 
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abh100

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Did not want to jump the fence then?
Nah - not really possible to hoof it over a 7ft wood-panelled fence (boarding was facing into the public path - presumably to keep the filthy public out!).
I had to stand on a tree stump to take the second pic.
I suspect there were other access points away from the public path though.

TBH I didn't know what it was and in the middle of a 10mile hike (had just visited nearby Castle Grove Camp (iron age ditches & plateau!) aka Wyfold Castle - pic below).
 

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night crawler

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Nah - not really possible to hoof it over a 7ft wood-panelled fence (boarding was facing into the public path - presumably to keep the filthy public out!).
I had to stand on a tree stump to take the second pic.
I suspect there were other access points away from the public path though.

TBH I didn't know what it was and in the middle of a 10mile hike (had just visited nearby Castle Grove Camp (iron age ditches & plateau!) aka Wyfold Castle - pic below).
Just released after checking the OS map that is not far from where I live. Is the ditch in Wyfold Wood? can't find any sign of where the camp is though
 

J_a_t_33

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Whoooaaah!! Where have all the trees gone??
Damn, strange seeing it likes this. I used to play here loads as a young'n!

Better go and take one last explore there before developers flatten it.
 

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