Incredible pictures show the London Underground tunnels where the Windrush arrivals lived

In 1948, an advert appeared in a Jamaican newspaper announcing that there were 300 places aboard the Empire Windrush for anyone who wanted to travel to Britain.

All 300 places quickly went, with an extra 192 men making the 22-day journey on the deck.

But upon arrival, the people who came to help Britain cope with the postwar labour shortage were scuppered by the postwar housing shortage – in short, they had nowhere to live.

Incredible pictures show the London Underground tunnels where the Windrush arrivals lived
© (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images) 1st July 1948: Charles Stimson (foreground) and Charles Baker writing home to Kingston, Jamaica from a converted air-raid shelter on Clapham Common. It is being used as temporary reception centre for immigrants arriving in London to help out with the labour shortage.

The solution was pretty creative.

Some 236 migrants were offered food and a bed in a shelter underneath Clapham South London Underground station, for six shillings and sixpence a week.

They were taken in buses from Tilbury docks in Essex, and brought down 11 storeys – 180 steps – to their subterranean accommodation in the deepest of the deep-level shelters, which just a few years before had been used as civilian shelters as the bombs fell.

Incredible pictures show the London Underground tunnels where the Windrush arrivals lived
© (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images) 1st July 1948: Chudleigh Bryan, a Jamaican immigrant, puts his feet up and catches up on the news in his temporary home at the Clapham shelter in London.

There was another entrance a couple of hundred metres away, on Clapham Common.

There were simple bunk beds with crisp white sheets, basic washing facilities, and very little space.

It was described by one resident as, “primitive and unwelcoming, like a sparsely furnished rabbit’s warren”.

Incredible pictures show the London Underground tunnels where the Windrush arrivals lived
© (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images) 1st July 1948: Jamaican immigrant Rennick Tobis at an immigrant shelter in Clapham, London.

It was also noisy, as they were directly beneath the rattling of the trains – which served as quite the rude alarm clock in the mornings.

Within four weeks, everyone in the shelter had secured jobs – many with London Transport or British Rail – and moved above ground.

Since the nearest labour exchange to the shelter was Brixton, many of the settlers made a home there, starting the area’s association with the Caribbean community.

Incredible pictures show the London Underground tunnels where the Windrush arrivals lived
© (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images) 1st July 1948: Jamaicans arriving in Britain to look for work living in an ex-air raid shelter on Clapham Common in London which has been adapted to function as a temporary hostel.

The shelters were later opened for tours by the London Transport Museum.

However, it wasn’t the last time the shelters were used as accommodation.

Just three years later during the 1951 Festival of Britain – an attempt to inject some hope and positivity into the idea of a brighter postwar future – it was used as cheap accommodation for attendees.

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