Having being inspired by this inspiring project in Nottingham, the Nottingham cave survey. A great archaeological project that demonstrates to me be what investigating the past should be all about. It hasn´t hidden the investigation behind a curtain of academic drabness, they know it´s fun, the bastards, just look at those bikes! There´s something of the kid in all of this looking at past mysteries looking beyond the normal street level everydayness in all of this. Nothing illustrates this better than whats beneath our feet. Forgotten tunnels, underground spaces awake all sorts of stories etc within us and is seen in all sorts of underground stories for example in the brilliantly captivating Rats in the Walls by J.P. Lovecraft.
Tamworth obviously doesn´t have the underground complexity of cities such as Nottingham(unique sandstone caves), Birmingham never mind cities such as New York. New York has even got a whole sub-genre dedicated to its underground world populated with its own set of characters from Mole people to sewer alligators. Incidentally great article on BLDG´S blog on rat catching and underground world of New York.
Can you see the entrance below Tamworth Castle into a secret world of ancient sects? I´m not telling
Tamworth and the Timehikes area has a much a more manageable underground world but not without its own mysteries. I remember as a kid messing around on the castle mount which then had the advantage for kids messing about of being hidden by trees. We were intrigued by the doorway below the castle and remember hearing stories being recounted about how it was the start of a tunnel which connected the castle with St Editha´s church. It was locked by barred gate and peering in I remember seeing the passageway filled with rubble which with my imagination I´m sure I remember complete with bones and skulls sticking out. How the hell I remember this I don´t know! One of the more intrepid explorer friends even proposed trying to get in and exploring further, If my memory serves me right it´s the same guy who I was saddened to read over Summer was involved in the operation Nemesis drug raids. Cruel world.
This Goonies flavoured childhood memory(incidentally goonies adventures have secret tunnels too!) introduced this legend of a tunnel between St Editha´s and the castle. When the legend came about I don´t know and what substance it has I don´t know either. The story of a secret tunnel though is by no means isolated and in fact forms part of the denominated folklore element Leys tunnels.I´ve only seen this term on wikipedia but I think it´s an appropiate term for all those stories of secret and lost tunnels. It seems most towns in the United Kingdoms and overseas have their version, Nottingham cave survey has actually confirmed it´s own legendary tunnel, see this link.
Going back to those childhood memories I remember that the ruined gateways leading into the castlegrounds presented a couple of hidden away doorways which I connected with the doorway on the mount. Apart from this distant childhood hypothesis I have this to go on from John Harpers page, which I´ve copied and pasted below:
As the demolition men tore down these 18th century buildings, they came across an old tunnel heading out under George Street from beneath one of the shops. Some suspected that it may have been a long-lost medieval passageway leading from the castle to St. Editha’s Parish Church. Local people have long believed the tunnel to exist, but as yet, there is no historical or architectural proof. The George Street tunnel was probably just a cellar dug out to provide extra storage space. But, as they developers were anxious to press on without archaeologists poking their noses in, the tunnel was simply blocked up with little or no investigation.
So there really is local hearsay about a long-lost tunnel! fascinating. Whatever it´s truth the secret tunnel serves this blog as a sort of doorway to that mysterious captivating slightly creepy underground world of abandoned cellars, sewers, sealed spaces that could lie below the area. Maybe it could even explain the rat problem in the castlegrounds!
Tamworth´s long lost medieval tunnel according to me.
Now onto the first of a series on the underground world of Tamworth.
The cellars of the Old Stone Cross
The old Stone Cross pub on Church Street, Tamworth has got a long history, which includes very old cellars. The heritage pubs of Tamworth initiative has a picture of the cellars here and heaps of info on the story of the pub,including the Rolling Stones! This post is strictly focused on the underground though. The cellars according the HER entry date back amazingly to the early 16th century.The listed building entry even mentions Tudor Rose bosses on the vaulting. The place looks like it’s a candidate for the underground gem of Tamworth. Are there any other cellars with histories below old pubs of Tamworth?
Abe and Ernst got a part time job in the Old Stone Cross to take a better look at the old cellars, all for the cause.
This is the first and most tangible entry in a series Abe and Ernst explorations of the possibilities of underground Tamworth!