By Iain Watts and Kim Reader
An urban explorer has revealed striking footage of portraits, he believes date back to WWII, sketched over the walls of a secret wartime bunker.
Chris Halliwell, 31, had heard whispers of the drawings and decided he needed to see them for himself, dedicating three days of research to finding the entrance to the bomb shelter.
Despite all his research, the dad of four was stunned as he wandered through a mile of haunting tunnels to find the walls were plastered with coal portraits of characters from an era long past.
Factory worker Chris believes the sketches of soldiers and women with glamorous 1940s pin curls were created by workers at a nearby coal plant, taking shelter during bombings.
While this is a ‘dream discovery’ for history lover Chris, he is adamant not to share the location of the bunker as he fears a wider knowledge of the tunnels would see the portraits vandalised and a piece of history ruined.
Chris from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, said: “I had heard about the portraits and done loads of research online but I never expected there to be so many.
“There were a lot of portraits of women and a few men – one that had a pipe in his mouth and another with a rifle on his back. It was amazing.
“They’re portraits from people who were down there during the bombings. From the quality of them it looks like they could be drawn from life.
“Most of them were drawn in black coal and back in the day there was a coal plant nearby so the portraits are possibly by the workers who took shelter in the bunker.
“It might have been a way for the people to keep themselves occupied during the tedious wait for the ‘all clear’.
“This is the dream really to make a discovery like this, this is probably the best find I’ve made.
“I thought I knew what to expect and I’d seen a few photos but once I got down there it was a whole different story.
“I’m determined to keep the location secret. If more people find out about it, the portraits will end up getting rubbed off the walls or vandalised.
“I want to protect it, it’s a piece of history.”
Chris, who runs an urban explorer group called CJ URBEX, also documented his investigation of the air raid shelter with a fascinating set of photos.
As well as the portraits, Chris also discovered old gas lamps, barrels used as chemical toilets and kettles ‘rotting away’ in the forgotten bunker.
After watching videos posted by other urban explorers two years ago, Chris was inspired to try out the hobby – and it quickly became a passion.
The dad, who also has a love for photography and videography, enjoys the thrill of making new discoveries and ‘wowing’ people with his pictures and footage.
Chris said: “Urban exploring isn’t something I’ve been doing for a long long time but it is a real passion of mine.
“After watching a few videos from other people I thought ‘this is awesome’ and had to give it a try. It’s all gone from there really.
“I do abandoned building as well but I really love bunkers.
“When you get down there you do have to stop and have a bit of a breather and give yourself a moment to take in your surroundings because you’re in complete darkness.
“When I got down into the last bunker, it was really dark, dank and moist so you do need to take a minute.
“But being a photographer helps because once I start taking pictures and shooting some video it takes my mind off of all that.
“I really enjoy sharing the photos and videos with people who don’t get to see things like that. I love wowing them and all the nice feedback I get.
“There were so many findings down there, it was brilliant. I had about a mile of tunnels to walk through and there was so much to see. But the great treasure really was the portraits.
“We found some cigarette lighter writing on the ceiling which indicates the dates 1942 and 1943.
“The bunker may have begun as a Munich crisis trench during a few tense weeks in September 1938.”