The Paulsgrove Chalk Pit

The Cooper Shelter

  Created 06-03-2002   Last update 01-05-2021

During the 1940s Paulsgrove (on the Southern slope of Portsdown) was farm land, and was owned by the Cooper family who lived in Paulsgrove House. The house was located on the A27 near the entrance to Port Solent, and was demolished to make way for the M27 motorway during the 1970s.

The Coopers who owned all of Paulsgrove including the chalk pit, had two private air raid shelters built in it. The floor of the pit has been quarried out since then, so the shelter now sits 40 feet up the cliff face. However, I have managed to carry out a survey of the shelters which are connected. 


With thanks to Andy Martin for his help with the survey


Don't attempt to enter these tunnels unless you fully

consider the hazards involved.


This is a graphical plan of the shelters (not to scale). Below is a description of the features. All sizes are in feet. The size column is length / depth, where length is the west / east measurement, and depth is the north south measurement.


Location Size Height Description


Entrance 3 wide 6 Brick doorway with a pre-cast concrete lintel above it. Not original. Ventilation duct above the lintel.


The west shelter 10 x 12 now 6, was 8 Flat unsupported unlined roof. Good condition. Several niches cut in chalk. No lining. Floor in-filled by 2 feet deep.
c Small opening 2 x 2 2 Connects the 2 shelters. Probably not original. Very rough cut. The 2 shelters were not connected after construction, but a thin wall of chalk was left to be removed in emergency.
d Connecting tunnel 12 x 2 2 - 3 The quality of the cut of the tunnel improves here.
e Opening  3 x 3 3 This part of the tunnel is original. 
f Small room 6 x 6 5 Irregular shaped room.
g The east shelter  see right now < 5 Flat unlined un-supported roof. Irregular shape, 10 ft deep, 10 feet long at widest point. Many niches. Floor level back filled by 2 feet.
h Entrance 3.5 wide now < 4 Rough hole in chalk, no features.

Aerial photo site location    Panoramic photo site location

Grid Ref SU636066

Visit this site - Portsdown Walk No2

Cooper shelter long shot

The Paulsgrove chalk pit has been converted to parkland.

The Cooper Shelter western entrance is arrowed.

Cooper shelter mid shot

The entrance on the left is to the west shelter, the rectangular one behind the foliage on the right is to the east shelter. 

Cooper shelter close up

Close up of the west shelter entrance. Above the door is a ventilation duct.

looking out of the cooper shelter

Looking out of the west shelter towards the south ('a' on the graphic plan). The floor has about 2 feet of chalk infill on it. They are little more than caves cut out of the chalk.

cooper-pounds shelter connecting tunnel

This is the connecting tunnel between the two shelters from the east side. The chalk has been professionally cut here, but further back a rough hole has been hacked out at a later date into the western shelter. ('c' 'd' and 'e' on the graphic plan.


NEW - 01-05-2021

George Albert Cooper resplendent in his bowler hat.

Supplied by Ferne Hudson (granddaughter )


I regularly receive emails from relatives of the Cooper family enquiring about other family members. Below is a list of Cooper family that I am so far aware of. If you wish to get in touch or have your name added to the list then please contact me and I will forward your email address to the others. Email addresses will not be published.


Alice Weir

daughter of Susan Weir

Carla Cooper

granddaughter of John Cooper 

David Richards

great grandson of George Cooper

Edward Cooper

great grandson of George Cooper

Elizabeth Cooper

granddaughter of George Cooper 

Ferne Hudson

granddaughter of George Cooper

Francis Charles H Cooper

brother of George Cooper

Gemma Hardy

granddaughter of John Cooper 

Kate Cooper

daughter of Keith James Francis Cooper

Keith James Francis Cooper

Son of Francis Charles H Cooper

Marion Cooper

daughter of George Cooper

Maurice Cooper

son of George Cooper

Nigel Cooper

son of George Cooper

Paul Cooper

son Francis Charles Henry Cooper

Robert Cooper

son of Keith James Francis Cooper

Rosie Wilson

daughter of Susan Weir

Sean Pollard

son of Valerie Cooper

Susan Anne Weir

daughter of Maurice Cooper

Theresa Cooper

daughter of Keith James Francis Cooper

Tim Cooper

son of Keith James Francis Cooper




Here are some extracts from emails received about the Cooper Shelter. Any italicised comments in [] brackets are mine

  NEW - 02-01-2021  

I was looking into family history on my mother's side the coopers, I see on the website my mother Theresa cooper is on the list of coopers but with a ? After her name. Would like to fill in the gap, my Grandad, Theresa's dad was Keith James Francis Cooper. Keith was son of Francis Charles H Cooper.
Keith also had 2 sons Robert and Tim and one other daughter Kate.

Hopefully you can add my Grandad at least, it nice to put pieces of the puzzle together. [Done! - Bob Hunt]

Nathan Frost - January 2021

  NEW - 28-10-2012  

Hi Bob, have just come across your web site while looking up about my Mums Uncle George Cooper, his wife Lilian was her Dad's (Charles Newton of Portsmouth) sister, who was a lovely lady and Mum said she looked just like the Queen Mother. My Mums name is Irene M.D. Palmer (nee Newton) who .lived in Portsmouth many years. She is 99 years old and lives with us who look after her after a stroke ( I am her daughter)

Lately she has been reminiscing about the past and her very kind and generous Uncle George, who she remembers very well. Mum is the only surviving child of Mr. Charles Newton.

I was very interested in reading the letters that have been written to you and wondered if any of them still have a photo of Paulsgrove House and of George Cooper. Mum can remember going to the house at Christmas and the summer for some lovely parties. Although I know it has now been demolished.

Her uncle George was very kind and helped her when she was only a teenager to take over the greengrocer shop from her father in Devonshire Square, Southsea. and to put it in her name.

We now live in Gloucestershire and it would be lovely to hear from anyone who can help me. I found your website very interesting and wait in anticipation.


Wendy Ayres - October 2012


  NEW - 05-05-2012  

I was just showing my grandad (Maurice Cooper) - son of George Cooper the photos of his old home [Paulsgrove House], and I saw my mum (who passed away in 2004) had already written to you!! (S.A. Weir nee. Cooper), I was wondering if you could add her onto your list like you did my Grandad!! As daughter of Maurice Cooper.. and Rosie Wilson (nee. Weir) as her daughter and Alice Weir as her daughter too) My Grandad said he was delighted people were so interested in the tunnels! He couldn't remember my mum showing him photos of the house or tunnels so was happy to see them.


Rosie Wilson - May 2012



NEW - 20-04-2011



I have just found your web site and found it very interesting, especially the part concerning the Cooper family and Paulsgrove House. My father Denis Stokes was a very close and good friend to the old GA Cooper and to several other members of the family. He worked for Kempton Cooper as a manager in a couple of their shops, the last of which was in Kingston Road. I was brought up there living above the shop and we had a back entrance in Toronto Road. They had the house demolished but my parents lived there for about 30 years.

Kempton and his wife Marion and their sons John & Richard went to live in Ireland and a cousin Michael Cooper carried on with the shop.
I remember as a small child old George Cooper walking around the grounds of Paulsgrove House with his dog Oscar telling me not to sit on the damp grass as I will get rheumatism when I get older.

My father did a lot of work for him keeping the grounds looking nice. I know he thought a great deal of my father and he offered him a house of his choice several times but my father never took him up on his offer.

There were two cottages in the fields just along Southampton Road and he let my uncle Bill and his family live in one for several years.

We used to keep our ponies at Paulsgrove House, this is after G A Cooper and his wife had died, and Kempton, Marion and their family lived there. It was a beautiful, wonderful house and I remember playing hide and seek: the cupboards were like small rooms. If I can help with any stories please let me know.



Kempton Cooper's sister Evelyn was given Farlington marshes by her father GA Cooper. She married a Derek Windebank and lived at Farlington.

I remember going to the marshes with my family. There was a long bumpy track Dad used to drive down and he had keys to the gate to enter the marshes. We used to spend time on a Sunday there and Dad also used to help with work there at times. We also kept two of our ponies there for a while.

Back at Paulsgrove House, old GA Cooper used to walk around with his black Labrador Oscar on one occasion Oscar disturbed a wasp nest or bees I am not sure which. Mr Cooper went to help his dog and the stings and the stress of this brought about a stroke for him and his health deteriorated from then on. (Oscar was badly stung but was OK). Dad used to help him get out and about and lift him back into his bed.

I remember Dad cutting the lawns with a large Dennis mower. I used to think this was his own special mower as it had his name on the front. I used to go exploring the greenhouse and orchard and making daisy chains until he had finished mowing. We did this for years and my Dad could have told you so much more but I am afraid he died in 1998.

Rosie Cooke - August 2011



NEW - 20-01-2008


Lovely site here Bob. Anyway I'd just like to mention the two brothers who managed the Paulsgrove Lime Company, way back in 1963; they were Maurice and Nigel Cooper. I don't know if they were related to the same family [yes they were, see family table above] but I know they were quite well spoken. I used to work there with a few other workmates. We would have to fill Fisons bags with the Lime which came down from a huge hopper. Sometimes the Lime wouldn't flow very well, so we had a few holes around the bottom of the hopper, with a poker in each hole, to loosen it up, and on many occasions it would squirt out at you and go in your eyes if you weren't lucky.

David Jenson - January 2008



NEW - 08-01-2008


I was pleased to stumble across your great site today. I am David Richards, great grandson of George Cooper. My grandmother is Marion Cooper. Ferne Hudson is both my aunt and godmother. I would love to be added to the list. I still have an old photo of Paulsgrove House and Marion still has one in her drawing room! Keep up the good work!

David Richards - January 2008



NEW - 29-10-2006


I am Edward Cooper, son Royston Cooper who was the son of Albert George Cooper (Little George) who was the eldest son of George Albert Cooper. I am compiling a family tree for my own and the immediate family’s interest.

I’d like to point people towards the publication “Paulsgrove House and the 17th-Century House Plans in Hampshire and West Sussex” by E, Lewis that was published in the Post-Medieval Archaeology Publication, Number 6 in 1970 post the demolition of the house.

Regarding the family, I think I have been able to trace the Coopers back directly (I think it’s accurate) 1833 to George and Fanny Cooper of Portsea (Butchers), whilst Great-Grandma Cooper (Lily May Victoria Newton) can be traced back to the middle 18th-Century.

Edward Cooper - October 2006



NEW - 17-09-2006


My name is Paul Cooper and would like to be added to the Family Site. At present I am compiling a Family Tree for my Son Jonathan and have managed to list most of the family that I can remember and would like to be able to swap information with any one of the family that is interested.

My father was Francis Charles Henry Cooper (Brother of G A Cooper) DOB: 16th February 1896. Died: 17th July 1970 aged 74, (He ran the Shop in Highland Rd) and was married to Kathleen Mary Cooper DOB: 24th October 1911. Died 20th December 2001 age 91

Paul T Cooper - September 2006


My name is Sean Pollard and my mother, Valerie Cooper ( born 1935, sadly died 1996 ) was one of George Cooper's nieces. She used to tell me how, as a teenager she kept her horse called Misty at Paulsgrove House stables. Apparently, uncle George would send his chauffer driven Rolls Royce to pick her up from North End Avenue where she lived with her sister Jean, brother Barry (both still alive and kicking and living in the area) and her parents (my grandparents) Albert and Lily Cooper. Albert was involved in his brother George's butchery business until his death in 1957 aged 56 I think. Lily died in 1983 aged 84.

Anyway, being a mere slip of a lad myself (42), I only have a very slight memory of seeing Paulsgrove House from the main road some time before it was demolished.

Thank you once again for the website and I would love to hear from any of the Cooper family who wish to make contact.

Sean Pollard - May 2006

Your information on the web site is not correct because the "air raid shelters" were not built by George Albert Cooper, who was my grandfather. The original one was made hundreds of years ago and was believed to have been used by smugglers. It was then adapted by my grandparents in the last war as their air-raid shelter.

George Cooper also owned Farlington Marshes which he gifted to Portsmouth Corporation (I think) in the 1960s. I remember going down there with my aunt, who used to keep horses and cattle there in the 1960s

Ferne Hudson - April 2004

I was born in Southsea and brought up in Cosham - now exiled to Brighton.

I was particularly interested in the history of the Paulsgrove Estate and Paulsgrove House. My grandfather was George Cooper and my father Gordon Cooper is his oldest surviving son (he still lives locally). Originally George Cooper lived at Wymering Farm where my father was brought up. The family moved to Paulsgrove House before WW2 and lived there until the late 1960s. I have many happy childhood memories of the house...what a tragedy it was demolished.

Before WW2 I believe my grandfather owned most of the land to the north of Portsea Island including the Race Course, Chalk Pits and Farlington Marshes. He many business interests including a number of butcher shops throughout Portsmouth - GA Cooper Ltd. George Cooper had 13 children and the sons (7) were at various times involved in the running of various parts of the business.

I was particularly interested in the 'Cooper Shelter' as I had heard a lot about the air raid shelter in the chalk pit but had no idea what or where it was.

One interesting story that might fit with your legends and mysteries is the tunnel that was supposed to connect Paulsgrove House with Portchester Castle. The tunnel was supposed to start in the cellar. Despite much entrance was ever was ever found. There was however, a bricked up wall in the cellar and nobody knew what was behind it!

Elizabeth Wilkinson - October 2003

My father was one of the Cooper family living in Paulsgrove house and quite clearly remembers (as do some of his brothers & sisters) spending nights in the shelter. He said that Harry Pounds spent EVERY night in his shelter without fail. [Harry Pounds, owner of the famous Pounds scrapyards, had an air-raid shelter built under the former car park of VT shipyard at Portchester. It is believed that when the car park was built the shelter was so difficult to demolish that it was left intact.]

S.A. Weir (nee Cooper) - September 2002