The Author - Bob Hunt

 Created 17-05-2003   Last update 17-05-2003

How it all started

I was born in 1953 and lived in Toronto Road, Portsmouth UK. This road was, and still is, in an area with the highest density of housing in the UK; I was undoubtedly an inner city kid. At the end of this decade, for a day out, my Mum would take me on a number 4 bus to visit her sister who lived in Tintern Close Paulsgrove which is an estate located on southern Portsdown. Armed with corned beef sandwiches and orange juice we would then climb 'The Hill' and wander off to Southwick village to the north. 

Portsmouth Location map

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Just a day out maybe, but the effect of the location had a staggering impact on my young mind. In a few steps you suddenly left the hustle and bustle of city life behind, and as you ascended The Hill several amazing things happened at once. The chalk downland opened up in all directions and I could begin to look down on the city where I lived, and in stark contrast to the crowded city streets the wide open spaces of grass rolled on as far as the eye could see. This contrast was even more remarkable once I reached the top of The Hill. To the north patchwork fields, woods and countryside stretched to the horizon. To the south lay the City of Portsmouth partly obscured by an industrial haze with HM Dockyard and its great naval presence dominating the harbour. And all the while these two scenes were kept firmly separated by the great downland bulk of Portsdown Hill upon which I stood. It made me feel like a king.


How it all developed

With the wonder of Portsdown now firmly embedded in my mind I slowly began to realise that there was more to it than first met the eye. There was something underneath it. My first experience of this was on a day out as described above, I accidentally stumbled across a tunnel entrance which I managed to identify 40 years later as a NATO Commcen! 

My Mum then finalised the whole deal by telling me stories of how she sheltered from the blitz during WWII by taking refuge in the Wymering Deep Tunnel Shelter. That was it, I was hooked. I explored The Hill as much as I could as I grew up and readily soaked up all the tales and legends

As the years went by I still quietly absorbed information. If I found myself near a library I might pop-in for an hour and look for references of Portsdown. It was now that I realised how little information there was. A snip here, and a bit there but never any full accounts. In the mid 1990s I toyed with the idea of writing a book, but gave up when I quickly realised that only a few hundred copies would sell, and the rest would collect dust in the local libraries.

I had been working in the computer industry for many years, and during 2001 I began working on internet based projects. Suddenly I had found the medium I needed to publish my research: it would potentially have the ability to reach half a billion people! So I built the website and wrote down what I knew. It should have all been over in three months. It was then that it slowly dawned on me that this project was going to take a while longer - probably a lifetime. Every time a question was solved another ten took its place. Emails poured in, many surprisingly from ex-pats in Canada and Australia, providing much information - and more questions. Local historians, WRENS from the 1940s and many others contacted me, all of whom I had never met before, but who shared a common interest - Portsdown Hill. 

It soon became apparent that the website would have to cover more than just underground topics. There were many surface features that just had to be included, and historic events, and prehistoric remains, and the environment... I found that I was using the website as a notepad: as a piece of information came to light, from a sentence to a whole page, it was included immediately. I also discovered a new tactic to gather information which only works on website based media. If for instance I was unsure about the previous use of a site on Portsdown I would make a best guess and publish that. If my guess was wrong I didn't have to wait long before someone would email me to set the record straight.

It was never intended that this website should pretend to be an academic work. The information contained in it is presented for the appreciation of the widest possible audience. It contains as many factual details as possible, whilst also attempting to be a 'good read'. The use of hundreds of photographs, graphics, and maps also adds much interest. I have unintentionally become the 'Portsdown Expert' and regularly receive requests from film makers, television and newspapers for advice.

Bob Hunt. May 2003.

Bob Hunt - June 2003

Bob Hunt the Portsdown Tunnels author attempting to demonstrate absolutely nothing on a whiteboard.