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Underground (Miscellaneous: Tunnels, Roads, Bunkers Etc.)

Bit weird, this. I wonder if it will be as difficult to get in as the Capitol itself.

D.C. Plans Subterranean Visitor Center
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer

(05-20) 11:19 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fifty feet below ground and steps from the U.S. Capitol, construction workers haul bricks and cement, lay marble and tiles and put other finishing touches on a subterranean project almost as large as the building itself.

When completed, the three-level catacomb will be a place to welcome Capitol visitors and make lawmakers safer in doing their business. To some, it also will serve as a tribute to Congress, telling its stories as an institution as well as the place where laws are made.

To critics, it stands as a half-billion-dollar monument to Washington excess.

Slated to open in September 2006, the Capitol Visitor Center will be the ninth and, by far, largest addition to the building in its history — nearly doubling its size.

The massive undertaking began when 53,000 truckloads of dirt were hauled out from beneath the east grounds of the Capitol — the side facing the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress — to create a space big enough for 10 football fields, including the end zones.

To make room above ground for the center's entryway and an outdoor plaza, some 300 parking spaces were relocated and 68 trees chopped down, including six memorial ones, the oldest a pin oak planted in 1917 to honor Kansas Rep. Joseph Taggart. Eight other memorial trees were moved elsewhere, and 85 new trees planted.

"We were told by the Congress to make as big a footprint as we possibly could," said Alan Hantman, the Capitol architect, who is taking heat from lawmakers over the project's expanding cost and its completion schedule, at this point running more than a year behind.

Inside the center, an exhibition gallery twice as big as the Capitol Rotunda, the circular room beneath the dome, will aim to demystify Congress for the thousands of people who tour the building daily.

"This is where they're going to tell the story about the Capitol and the Congress," said Tom Fontana, a spokesman for the project. The exhibits themselves are being hashed out among House and Senate curators, historians and representatives from the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.

Two highlights will be a 10-foot-tall "touch" model of the dome, showing off its detailed exterior and interior, and a plaster model of its crowning feature, the Statue of Freedom.

The catafalque that supported the caskets of some of the people who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda also will be put on display. It was built of pine boards and draped with black cloth after Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 1865, and most recently used for President Reagan's casket.

Artifacts and documents will be showcased, themes from the preamble to the Constitution will be highlighted and the Capitol's growth over the years will be mapped out and explained.

Live feeds of House and Senate business will be piped into "virtual" galleries where visitors can take seats to watch what's transpiring a few floors up, plasma screens will provide glimpses of some important rooms not seen on public tours of the Capitol, and interactive monitors will help visitors scan the voting records of their representatives.

Other portions of the addition, off-limits to the public, include an auditorium for lawmakers that can substitute as a working chamber should either of the existing ones need to be closed, and extra workspace for the House and Senate, congressional hearings and the news media.

One critic of congressional spending habits says Capitol security could have been improved and amenities provided for visitors without filling a hole in the ground with what he calls a half-billion-dollar "monument to excess in Washington."

"Most of the expansion has nothing to do with security," said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. "It has to do with the fact that a huge hole is being dug underneath the Capitol or next to the Capitol and it provides the opportunity for members of Congress to fill it with all kinds of excess space for themselves."

Besides the add-ons for lawmakers, the center will help ease the wait for Capitol visitors, who have had to line up outside for hourlong tours of the building. Once through security, they will be free to roam the three-level visitors facility, which will offer 26 restrooms and a 600-seat dining area.

Security was one reason for building the center, but the main issue was that "visitors were not being treated with respect when they came here," said Hantman, the architect.

The idea of a visitor center had been around since the 1970s, but it wasn't until the fatal shootings of two Capitol police officers in 1998 that the project took on momentum.

"People recognized that we really needed to do something in terms of screening people outside of the building to the greatest extent possible so that they weren't inside the building and creating a threat before we actually recognized where that threat was," Hantman said.

After visitors clear security, they will stream into balconies that look down on the center's Great Hall, which will be filled with light from twin 30-by-70-foot skylights on a plaza to the east of the existing building. The overhead windows will provide views of the Capitol Dome.

Coat rooms, restrooms and gift shops will be on this upper level, with information booths and desks where tourists can pick up timed-entry tickets for guided tours.

Before the tours, visitors can head down a level to one of two 250-seat theaters to watch a 12-minute film about the history of the Capitol and Congress. Tour guides will escort them through the Capitol afterward. On the way, a second row of four, smaller skylights will offer a final, spectacular look at the dome.

Hantman said, "What we really want to do is make this a facility that supplements and complements the historic building ... and allows people to get in out of the rain, out of the snow."

A loading dock area below ground on the Senate side of the Capitol will connect to a truck tunnel being built so that deliveries and garbage collection can be handled on the visitor center's third level, a service floor that will be closed to the public.

After the police shootings, Congress set aside $100 million for the visitor center, with another $165 million expected to come from private donations. But not nearly enough private money was raised, and the center was short by about $100 million at the time of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Capitol was believed to be a target.

Lawmakers quickly appropriated the remaining funds.

Now, congressional auditors have put the center's cost at $515 million, Hantman said. Some members of Congress have criticized the rising price tag, but Hantman said lawmakers have requested additions and changes along the way that required redesign and more money.

On the Net:

Video of the visitor center under construction is available at:

Online version here.
So does anybody know if their are any tunnels not in use in and around Plymouth?

We have the MoD tunnels full of wepons, (God forbid anybody drop a bomb on Plymouth, up goes half of Cornwall as well, oh and the Naval Dockyard)

I remember reading on a different site about their being a old Bombshelter up by the Uni, i have looked everywhere and never found it. :cry:
Enormous nuclear bunker for sale

A nuclear bunker made to house the government and civil servants in the event of nuclear attack is for sale.
The existence of the underground complex at Corsham, Wiltshire, was kept secret until recently, but the Ministry of Defence is now inviting buyers.

Built in the late 1950s, the bunker covers many acres and was decommissioned in the 1980s.

It is underground - more than 100ft (30m) down - and includes a pub, kitchen and BBC studio.

The MoD says it has received hundreds of enquiries, including two serious bids.

Despite being close to one of Britain's busiest railway lines, the facility was shrouded in secrecy for 50 years beneath non-descript government buildings.

In the 1950s as the threat of nuclear war intensified, the government pinned its hope for survival on buildings already used by the military.

If there had been an attack, the then prime minister Harold Macmillan and much of Whitehall would have been moved west to the bunker.

Nick McCamley, author of Secret Underground Cities, said in the past the government "simply refused to admit" the bunker existed.

"They gradually released documents about some of the other sites in the area, but as far as [this complex] was concerned it simply did not exist."

Chairs and office equipment are still stored there, in preparation for thousands of civil servants.

There are huge generators to provide power that might have been needed for weeks, boxes of paper and files, and enormous kitchens - all unused.

One of the largest telephone exchanges ever built would have linked to the regional government, which would also have been underground in the event of an attack.

Ah! The Cold War - those were the days, eh? 8)
Of course, this most likely means they have another one.. somewhere.. out there..
I work on an old island in Oxford that once housed an abbey - so there's bound to be tunnels underneath this building, but I'm not sure if there are still any access points above ground. I'm also convinced there are shed loads of chambers and tunnels beneath the city itself - but have never found much info to back that up.
I'm keen to find out if there are any tunnels under Stockholm's Old Town. Rumour has it that the dity is riddled with underground tunnels designed to evacuate the public in case of attack. Does anyone know of accessible tunnels in Stockholm?
Sharitioxz said:
So does anybody know if their are any tunnels not in use in and around Plymouth?

We have the MoD tunnels full of wepons, (God forbid anybody drop a bomb on Plymouth, up goes half of Cornwall as well, oh and the Naval Dockyard)

I remember reading on a different site about their being a old Bombshelter up by the Uni, i have looked everywhere and never found it. :cry:

I've been to the bombshelter under Plymouth Uni, it was on a school trip many years ago. I think its closed now I heard that they put one of those massive sattelite dishes they have on top of it and it fell through. I remember it being quite spooky, I must have been about 8 and at one point they turned off the lights so we could see what it would have been like during an air raid, scared our class full of 8year olds silly!

My mum used to work for TSW (local TV) and apparently theres a tunnel going from the basement of the old tv studios to the Atheneum theatre nearby. She's told me all sorts of spooky stories about things that have happened down in the basement of the tv studios including the film vault being locked from the inside (only one door) and the cleaning lady having bin bags thrown at her.

I'll try and find out more if anyone is interested :)


ps This is my first post! :)
"Fairy" Tunnels

Many years ago, in fact in mid-adolescence, I was mightily impressed with stories of "fairy" tunnels excavated beneath English soil - solidly- constructed masonry works a foot or two underground and no more than half-a-foot tall and thus fit only for fairy travel.

Am I correct that these were actually old Roman heating ducts?
Re: "Fairy" Tunnels

OldTimeRadio said:
Many years ago, in fact in mid-adolescence, I was mightily impressed with stories of "fairy" tunnels excavated beneath English soil - solidly- constructed masonry works a foot or two underground and no more than half-a-foot tall and thus fit only for fairy travel.

Am I correct that these were actually old Roman heating ducts?

Possibly OTR! But the hypocaust pillars tend to be taller, at nearer 2' high, as some poor sod would have to crawl in once in a while to clean them out. At one end would be the furnace arch, while hollow tiles in the walls provided the updraft & wall warming.

As to them being mistaken for fairy tunnels? I've never heard of this, but I suppose it's possible. I suppose that it's also quite possible that your old time agricultural worker, would dig down find & break through a mosaic floor, or the remains of one, then lift or break covering slabs. I suppose less tunnels, more like a large low hall..... the hall of the elven king or something like that?
I gather that the Diggers of Moscow have had quite a lot of exposure in other places and even on the BBC. Yet we haven't had them on here and I hadn't heard of them before till I came across one of these links:


A good character-study of the star Digger and his motivations. Some of the wilder claims need this context. The secret deep-level Metro might be true though I don't hold out much hope of Ivan the Terrible's Library!

http://www.thebulletin.org/article.php? ... 97ilnitsky


Juicy stuff and lots more if you Google for it. :)
More weird and wonderful urban exploration stuff here.

Not all of it is underground. The site seems to be based in Toronto but the little scamps get about a bit, showing up an astonishing lack of security in a lot of these places. :shock:
Cincinnati Subway

As many are aware, Cincinnati, Ohio, has its very own UNFINISHED subway, begun in 1920 and abandoned during 1925-1926.

This year, 2006, Cincinnati City Council has commissioned a study of the financial worth of the unfinished project and what can be done with it.

One option on the table is to FINISH the darn thing, 80-plus years late.

The original subway project failed because of widespread city corruption (leading to the invention of the City Manager form of municipal government), not because of any inherent unfeasability in the subway design.
This is interesting, in a techie way, and obviously serves a practical need.
But the Fortean in me wonders what else they might find....?
Pipe network to be mapped in 3D
By Jonathan Amos
BBC News science reporter

The maze of pipes and cables that snake beneath the UK's streets are to be mapped in a £2.2m pilot project.

An intimate knowledge of this tubular underworld is expected to help reduce the number of holes that need to be dug by utilities, and cut traffic jams.

Nottingham and Leeds researchers will trial new 3D mapping technologies at half a dozen UK locations.

It is thought there are enough pipes and cables below ground in Britain to stretch to the Moon and back 10 times.

Some were laid more than 200 years ago and accurate information on their precise positions is often non-existent or sketchy at best.

Even modern records will be spread across numerous databases, making it very difficult sometimes for a contractor to know what a pneumatic drill might hit when it goes into the ground.

There are 30 to 40 incidents each year where workmen are seriously injured because they have accidentally sliced through electricity cables.

"When utilities and highways authorities are digging in the street, they often find things they didn't expect, or don't find the things they were looking for," explained Mike Farrimond, director of UK Water Industry Research Ltd, which is managing the mapping project.

"If we had detailed 3D maps of what was down there, we'd be much more efficient at finding and fixing leaks, and connecting people to services."

The schematic diagram above shows the typical level of complexity of pipes and cables that exists under one London street
Nationally, four million holes are dug each year at a cost of £1bn; indirect costs, such as road congestion, are estimated at £3-5bn
In the UK there are: 275,000km of gas pipes; 353,000km of sewer pipes; 396,000km of water pipes; 482,000km of electricity cables
A third of the pipes in London were laid more than 150 years ago; 20 cable firms have worked in London in the last five years
Camden High Street in London was dug up 144 times in one year; Glasgow's Great Western Road, 223 times

The project, known as Vista (Visualising integrated information on buried assets to reduce streetworks), is largely funded by the Department of Trade and Industry.

It will pull together the current records of pipes, cables and wires - be they held in digital form or on paper - and link them to new surveys undertaken at six trial locations.

The in situ observations will use ground-penetrating radar and other sensing technologies to find the precise depth and course of the local tubeworks - to within an accuracy of 5cm.

The project team hopes to come up with a mapping system that can be rolled out to other parts of the country.

"You can't look at an Ordnance Survey map to find out what's under the ground," explained Tony Cohn, professor of automated reasoning at Leeds University.

"We will be producing an 'underlay' to the OS, to show you what's down there. We'll combine all the historical data from the utilities with the in-street data found with location-sensing technology. We want to merge this information dynamically and put it on some kind of handheld unit."

The project could result in mobile devices or displays in street diggers that would present streetworkers with a 3D picture of the pipe and cable layout in front of them. This would give workers the confidence to dig without the fear of accidentally cracking a water main or causing a major gas leak.

One of the major challenges facing the researchers will be in developing the centimetre-accurate, satellite-based location technology they will need to make their street observations.

The Global Position System (GPS) is far from reliable in high-rise urban areas or, indeed, in very leafy locations.

"What we're doing is integrating GPS with other technologies, such as inertial navigation sensors and devices called pseudolites and locatalites (which are ground-based satellites, in effect); and survey equipment that measures angles and distances - to give us the accuracy we need," explained Dr Gethin Roberts from Nottingham University.

However, future streetworkers will not need such complicated location-finding equipment to make sense of their 3D maps. It is expected Europe's new sat-nav system, called Galileo, will greatly enhance the GPS performance once it comes on line towards the decade's end.

Although the Vista project is being led by Leeds in collaboration with Nottingham, there is support from 19 utility, transport and engineering organisations.

Vista links in with another project called Mapping the Underworld - funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), in collaboration with five other universities - which is researching improved sensor technologies to find pipes and new ways of tagging them so they never become lost.

I work in a hospital in Scotland and recently I was talking to my boss who happened to mention that under most of the old hospitals (at least in Glasgow) there are mazes of tunnels, most of which are entirely abandoned and unused. Some used to link buildings to each other under roads etc so that trolleys could be pushed directly from one part to the other etc in days when car transport was rare or non-existant.

I thought this might be of some interest to people.
During a project that took me to sites of some of New York State's old state hospitals, I had the chance to spend just a little bit of time in some of the tunnels beneath Pilgrim State Hospital on Long Island. If anyone is interested, I got a few pictures which you can find here, if you're curious.
1llusion0 said:
During a project that took me to sites of some of New York State's old state hospitals, I had the chance to spend just a little bit of time in some of the tunnels beneath Pilgrim State Hospital on Long Island. If anyone is interested, I got a few pictures which you can find here, if you're curious.

Very interesting. Thanks for that link. The doll in the incubator is properly freaky.
My old school in Essex had an underground bomb shelter which, naturally, was out of bounds to the pupils. One day me and some of the lads managed to get in to investigate and have a mooch around, but our excitement soon vanished when we found it was full of loo rolls and brooms as the janitor used it as a store cupboard.

I now live in Ayr on the west coast of Scotland and there are apparently catacombs under the harbour. Apparently the only way to access them is to climb over the wall at the far end of the pier and scale down to a small entrance. I was always too scared to go down when I was young enough to get away with it, and couldn't think of a good enough excuse for the judge once I became a grown up, so unfortunately I've never been down.

I went on holiday to Laredo in the north of Spain a few years ago. There is a smugglers tunnel which leads from near the center of the town out to a small cove round the coast from the main harbour. It's full of winos and junkies now but I did make it through once. It was amazing just to take the time and think back to everybody who has used it before me, and the purposes they used it for and the fact that I was an insignificant tourist compared to everything else that went on there.
joebaxi said:
I went on holiday to Laredo in the north of Spain a few years ago. There is a smugglers tunnel which leads from near the center of the town out to a small cove round the coast from the main harbour.
I'm familiar with smuggler's tunnels and such in the UK, from when smugglers were trying to evade stiff taxes on importing certain goods like spirits and tabacco. But what goods were the Spanish smuggling, and why?
I honestly have no idea!

Then again, if San Miguel is anything to go by, possibly a decent tasting beer? :D
Yesterday I spent a happy couple of hours at the local library, looking at the microfiche record of the local rag from 1963.

I didn't find what I was looking for but there was plenty of other interesting stuff.

A very interesting article was about a pub, the Potting Shed in Nantwich, which has a cellar with bricked-up tunnels leading off it. Nobody now knows where the tunnels lead. The area was much fought over in the Civil War so I think there's believed to be a connection there.

The pub is also s'posed to be heavily haunted, especially in the cellar and around the bricked-up tunnel entrances. Back in 1963, at least, the staff wouldn't go down there alone!

A little more research is necessary.

The pub isn't officially called the Potting Shed, that's a nickname - it has a much more boring real name which I forget. It's always known as the 'Shed, dunno why.
All this got me thinking about the tales I heard when I was younger.
I live near the old ordanance factory (Chorley ROF)
I was told as a child that there were secret underground railway tunnels from the ROF into the hills at Heapey
Living near Heapey I knew of the area, it is fenced off still.
Being the curious sort I am I searched google/ google earth and low and behold I ain't the only one wondering


Very weel written throughly enjoyable reading, if a little train spotty (nowt wrong with that)
Google earth shows all 4 tunnel entrances
I know where I'm off to this weekend :twisted:
http://society.guardian.co.uk/communiti ... 38,00.html

After 40 years' burrowing, Mole Man of Hackney is ordered to stop

Paul Lewis
Tuesday August 8, 2006
The Guardian

From the outside, the house that stands at 121 Mortimer Road in Hackney, east London, looks no different to the thousands of other decrepit old buildings scattered across the country. The roof has caved in. Three of the windows are boarded up and cracked paint peels from the wrinkled walls.

But this is no ordinary house. Since the early 1960s, the man who owns and lives inside the £1m Victorian property has been digging. No one knows how far the the network of burrows underneath 75-year-old William Lyttle's house stretch. But according to the council, which used ultrasound scanners to ascertain the extent of the problem, almost half a century of nibbling dirt with a shovel and homemade pulley has hollowed out a web of tunnels and caverns, some 8m (26ft) deep, spreading up to 20m in every direction from his house.

Their surveyors estimate that the resident known locally as the Mole Man has scooped 100 cubic metres of earth from beneath the roads and houses that surround his 20-room property.

"I often used to joke that I expect him to come tunnelling up through the kitchen floor," said Marc Beishon, who lives a few yards from Mr Lyttle's house.

His wife, Joy, sees the serious side of the issue, however. "We moved in six years ago and we've been complaining to the council ever since," she said. "Until six weeks ago they had the audacity to tell us the house was structurally sound. The whole of the opposite street lost power one day after he tapped into a 450-volt cable."

Now, after 40 years of complaints, the council has admitted Mr Lyttle's quarrying has put the neighbourhood at risk. Last week it obtained a court order to temporarily evict him in order to enable engineers to fill the holes with cement, at an estimated cost of £100,000 - for which Mr Lyttle will be billed.

"There has been movement in the ground," Phillip Wilman, a council surveyor, told Thames magistrates court. "He's fortunate a London bus is not in his front garden. The property is dangerous and liable to flooding."

A spokesman for the council said yesterday it had since offered Mr Lyttle temporary accommodation at a nearby hotel and removed 40 tonnes of excavated gravel and junk from his back yard. Structural engineers will descend into the dark labyrinth to gauge the full extent of the damage later this week.

For his part, William Lyttle denied that he has burrowed under his neighbours' homes, although he admitted to more than 40 years of "home improvements" on his own land. He told the Guardian the council's efforts to prevent him from re-entering his property breached his human rights.

"I first tried to dig a wine cellar, and then the cellar doubled, and so on. But the idea that I dug tunnels under other people's houses is rubbish. I just have a big basement. It's gone down deep enough to hit the water table - that's the lowest you can go."

His face lights up when he relates stories about holes under the towpath on Regent's canal or secret underground train networks. "I once dug a little tunnel out into the road for the cameras. But that's it," he insisted. "Tunnelling is something that should be talked about without panicking." The metre-wide openings seen by the few people who have descended down the shaft in his back garden, he said, were shadows.

Many of those who live around 121 Mortimer road beg to differ. In 2001, the pavement in front of Mr Lyttle's house collapsed, yielding a wide gash in the road. "You could see all the tunnels sprawling out all over the place inside - it was crazy," said one woman who lives nearby. "We don't wish the man any harm," said William Legg, 76, a retired civil servant. "He's a hard-working man - he just doesn't use his energy in the right way. Everyone around here just wants to see the place made safe."

But no one in the community, even those who remember when Mr Lyttle first purchased the house in the 1960s, can answer the question on everyone's lips: why does he do it? In all his years of digging, though, Mr Lyttle has never offered a straight answer.

"I don't mind the title of inventor," he said. "Inventing things that don't work is a brilliant thing, you know. People are asking you what the big secret is. And you know what? There isn't one."
Reminds me of the pointless digging the father makes the kids do in Flora Schreiber's 'The Shoemaker', where he has them excavating a cellar in the front room.

A terrifying book. :D
1m surplus firebombs thrown down mine shafts
By Ben Fenton

(Filed: 11/09/2006)

A million incendiary bombs and 20,000 obsolete wireless sets are not your common or garden recycling problem.

And just how do you set about throwing away 256 tons of old aircraft wheels, eight million radio condensers and 60 tons of tins containing "irritant powder", a crude chemical weapon?

It was clear that the Ministry of Supply, charged with dumping thousands of tons of "valueless surplus material" after the Second World War, had to think big.

Its solution, documented in three thick files just released at the National Archives, was to chuck everything down 28 mine shafts in England, Scotland and Wales, and cap the lot with concrete.

The files list the enormous quantities of wartime gubbins that couldn't be flogged off and, between 1946 and 1948, down which old mines each consignment was thrown.

There were 480 tons of "scrap rubber boots", bought from the Dunlop company but never used, dumped in a shaft in Nottinghamshire.

More than 100,000 face pieces from gas masks went down a mine in Dowlais, south Wales, followed by 240 tons of asbestos compound.

The irritant powder, a constituent of tear gas, ended up at the bottom of a shaft near Alfreton, Derbyshire, while there were so many fixed condensers, a standard part in pre-war radios, that they filled two large Nottinghamshire holes, one at Ruddington and one in Kimberley.

All the shafts were of no further use to the National Coal Board, having been mined out at least 100 years earlier. But, even ignoring what environmentalists might think today, it was not a perfect solution.

The files, recently opened at the Archives in Kew, southwest London, show that the "Wonder Shaft" at Cheadle, Staffs, had been "filled and capped, but was re-opened by the owner of surrounding land and a quantity of Radio Sets removed".

Later, the civil servants at the Ministry of Supply admitted that all 10,000 radio sets were gone. :shock:

The huge quantity of incendiary bombs caused the biggest worries though.

First, the 550 tons of bombs dropped (or more likely lowered) down the Woodhead shaft, also in Cheadle, went off, "firing and blowing the head of the shaft to pieces".

Then the half million incendiaries, small 4lb devices, in four other Staffordshire shafts attracted the attention of thieves.

In 1953, dumped goods removed from mines were worth about £1.3 million at today's values.

This made other bureaucrats sit up and think. Was there anything else of value that Austerity Britain might be able to dig up again and sell?

But after an exhaustive search of its records, the men at the ministry had to admit defeat.

The remaining radio sets were probably booby-trapped, and bituminous paint had been dumped on top of them.

The vast, unrecorded quantities of old balloon fabric in pits near Motherwell had been covered in "woolgrease emulsion" and the remaining 965 tons of the material were burnt in early 1947.

And most of the rest was, literally, beyond reach.

Now, how about if a group of cavers....

PeniG, over to you! :D
Sthenno said:
I was wondering if anybody else who has spoken about legends of underground tunnels and the like has experienced the same kind of strange apathy in the local community in regards to exploring these things as I have. In my hometown in Devon there are stories of a system of underground tunnels connecting an ancient priory, an old religious establishment (now a private home) on the outskirts of the town and the mound in the town centre which is generally accepted as an old Norman fort (although some people believe it was created from the earth that was dug out to make the tunnels). What I find strange is that nobody seems to be interested in looking into these stories, despite the fact that there is reasonable evidence to say there might be something there. Records show that a 'souterrain' (underground passage) was discovered when the priory was excavated in the 1800's but nobody had the inclination to look into it further. There is a door into the mound quite plain to see, and a chamber inside, but the brief explorations made by myself as a child, and probably generations before me, were cut short by the body of a murder victim being dumped there. Kinda put us off....... Also, many older residents remember times when ventilators could clearly be seen in the sides of the mound, and also in the garden of an old cottage of the town which has since been pulled down. The most frustrating thing is that a friend of mine lives in an old house opposite the religious establishment and says there are doors in her cellar leading out to what would be solid earth if there were no tunnel there, but they've never looked into it because it would 'probably be all blocked up'. Huh???? I for one couldn't live with that mystery! Anyway do apoligise, I've rambled, it's my first post you see, and now I look at it I realise it isn't really about anything fortean......oh well.

Barnstaple in North Devon if Im not mistaken, was born there I was..
Time to boost this old thread...

First World War tunnels to yield their secrets
By Jasper Copping, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:42am BST 26/08/2007

As battle raged across the fields of Flanders, British soldiers found brief respite from the horrors of the First World War in "underground towns" far below the mud and gore. Now, more than 90 years after the armies left and the extraordinary networks of tunnels were flooded, the task of finally revealing their secrets has begun.

The prize, archaeologists and historians believe, is an unprecedented insight into the lives of British troops on the Western Front.

They believe that, because of the absence of light and oxygen in the flooded tunnels, possessions, such as beds, weapons, helmets, clothing and even newspapers, will have been preserved and will be found exactly as they were left in 1918.

After finding the entrances to dozens of miles of tunnels in the countryside near the Belgian town of Ypres, archaeologists and historians last week began extensive surveying work. Robots will then be sent into the tunnels before, eventually, experts from Britain and Belgium hope to pump out the water so that they can venture into the subterranean military towns.

Situated in the middle of the front line between the Germans and the Allied troops, the market town of Ypres was the scene of some of the worst carnage of the First World War. During four years of fighting, the town was almost entirely destroyed and 500,000 soldiers and civilians died in an area of just over nine square miles.

According to the original trench maps, drawn up by British engineers, hospitals, mess rooms, chapels, kitchens, workshops, blacksmiths, as well as rooms where exhausted soldiers could rest, were hewn from the soil, far beneath the water table. Dozens of "fighting tunnels", offshoots which were burrowed under German trenches before being exploded, were also built.

The rooms, connected by corridors measuring 6ft 6in high by 4ft wide, were fitted with water pumps but, when the troops left within weeks of the war ending, they were slowly submerged. Remarkably, during 1917 and 1918, more people lived underground in the Ypres area than reside above ground in the town today.

Peter Barton, a British historian who has been advising the research team, said: "These were basically underground villages and in some of the cases, small towns.

"They haven't been seen since September 1918 when the British attacked and swept the Germans back over this land. Things will be exactly as they were left. This is a unique opportunity. They will be perfectly preserved time capsules.

"The tunnels were left far, far in the rear [as the British soldiers advanced] and within weeks they would have been full of water. So when the Belgians returned, all they would have seen was a little door in a trench full of water."

In recent years, the extensive wartime tunnelling has been the cause of mounting problems for the authorities in Flanders as the timber planks, used to support the labyrinths, began to rot and cave in, causing subsidence.

Dr Tony Pollard, head of Glasgow University's Archaeological Research Division, said: "These are important archaeological sites but they are beginning to subside and collapse. They are becoming a danger to buildings and people so we need to find out more about where they are and how extensive they are."

Initially, experts are concentrating on three locations, and will use scanning equipment to find the main chambers. One network, near the village of Hooge, once housed 1,000 soldiers, while a second, Vampire Dugout, near Zonnebeke, was briefly captured and occupied by the Germans in their last-ditch Spring Offensive in 1918, before being retaken.

The third, Hill 60, which housed up to 3,000 troops, is near Zwarteleen, close to a railway line between Ypres and Menin.

Although some artefacts may eventually be removed from tunnels and handed to the local authorities and on to museums, those in charge of the project - the largest of its kind - intend to leave most in place.