Below are a few more underground bits and pieces in the area. They all share in common, the fact that they are, as it says in the title, underground spaces beneath country houses and religious places. Country houses as well as religious institutions had the money, influence and power to do things on a grander scale than farms. So it makes sense that the artificial underground spaces are more spectacular and substantial.
So below are the candidates, followed by some likely candidates. For purposes of the post and the series, I´m just focusing on their underground nature and some I´ll be coming back to in later posts with different approaches. I suppose it´s all about how you approach material things, even the most mundane things can become interesting, so much so that sometimes you have to take a step back!
According to the historic landscape survey on Polesworth the existing cellar in the 16th century vicarage, I quote, possibly occupies part of the former undercroft of a north-south monastic building to the west of the cloister(Palmer 2000). It looks very possible that part of the cellar dates back to the monastic period. Considering that very little of the once powerful and well-known Polesworth abbey survives, (apart from church and gatehouse) this makes this possible medieval underground space all the more important.
Above photo of privately owned Vicarage, click on photo to see original flickr source
The cellars of Packington Hall
Packington hallis an intriguing 18th century country estate just outside Hopwas to the west which I´m going to almost totally ignore to go straight into details of it´s dark underbelly. A structural survey commissioned by the new owners who want to turn the place into flats reveals that the 18th century country house has two cellar areas beneath the main building and rear wing which are in ´sound condition.´Packington hall was designed by famous 18th century architect James Wyatt so maybe those cellars are all the more worth having a look at. By the way no interior inspection by English Heritage people!
In the grounds there was an Icehouse, is it still around? They were common feature in country houses and used for food storage. Icehouses could qualify for an underground feature and icehouse entrances in out of the way places and forested areas have probably been influential in creating more than one secret tunnel story.
Click the link above to go to the Comerford Family History site, where the plan of the basement and storage room of the late 18th century Comberford hall is taken from. Underground spaces under private residences are enveloped in a double wall of secrecy. What´s underneath we might never know unless Mr Comerford decides upload some photos to his site.
Between the 14th century ragstone walls surviving from the deanery, immediately to the east of St Editha´s, Tamworth must lie the soil infilled vaulted medieval deep cellar belonging to the deanery mentioned in Charles Ferrer´s history of town and castle. Future archaeology studies enjoy!
Site of Fisherwick Hall
This was the site of the very bling bling but ephemeral Marquess of Donegall´s rebuilt Fisherwick Hall. It was demolished in the early 19th century leaving the coach house and stables. What if the demolishing wasn´t that rigorous and the housekeeper’s room, the servants’ hall, the kitchen, and other offices mentioned in the history of the county of Stafford as located in the basement partly survived.
Above is a photo taken over summer in Fisherwick wood. It´s a bridge of expensive stonework hidden in the undergrowth, part of Capability Brown´s landscaped estate. Although not strictly underground, it offers a tantalising glimpse into the potential black marbled,richly moulded, opulent underworld of Fisherwick Hall
Lastly on the mentioned county of Stafford link there´s a mention of I quote, “access to the house from the lawn in front was by a tunnel under the carriage road. “
What happened to this tunnel? Here´s Welbeck Abbey a well-known and extensive, somewhat crazy example of tunnels built at the whim of aristocrats beneath a country estate.