Caves of Nottingham
Amusing Planet Kaushik Saturday, July 02, 2016
The city of Nottingham in Nottinghamshire, England, is spread over a soft sandstone ridge which forms low hills to the north of the River Trent. This sandstone rock, formed some 230 million years ago, has high strength, and yet soft enough to be worked with chisels and hand-held picks. This unusual dual quality of strength and softness allows the rock to be easily excavated and still stand safely over unsupported spans.
Nottingham’s earliest inhabitants exploited this peculiar property. They found that it was easier and cheaper to create dwelling space by excavating into the foot of the sandstone cliffs along the edge of the Trent floodplain, than build houses above ground. Indeed, Nottingham was once known in the Brythonic language as Tigguo Cobauc, meaning “Place of Caves”, and was referred to as such by the Bishop of Sherborne Asser in the 9th century.
Photo credit: DncnH/Flickr
None of these early caves exist today. They have either collapsed are weathered away by erosion. But there are still hundreds of caves under the modern city of Nottingham. The earliest of these caves are thought to date from the 12th century, and a small number of them were dug after 1850. These caves were used as houses, as cellars and as places of work by various inhabitants of the city. Candle makers, bakers and blacksmiths loved them because these tradesmen could build hot fires without worrying about their workshops setting on fire and without having to damp down or cover their fires each night as was required because of the curfew orders in place at the time.
Butchers and fishmongers also built their workplaces there because of the absence of flies and the cool temperature. Maltsters took advantage of the cool temperature of the caves to create malt from barley all throughout the year.
During the Industrial Revolution, large number of people came to Nottingham looking for work and landlords began housing families in caves, sometimes in pretty appalling conditions. Entire families slept and ate in a single room. Sanitation was poor and the caves became breeding grounds for cholera, tuberculosis and smallpox. It was one of the worst periods in the history of Nottingham. In 1845, the renting of caves and cellars for use by the poor as homes was made illegal, but the practice could not be entirely eradicated. People were still living in them until the first quarter of the 20th century. During the Second World War, the caves became air raid shelters.
Only a handful of the caves are in use today. The pub called “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem” which is rumored to be one of the oldest pubs in the country is partly built into the cave system. Another set of caves function as indoor rifle range of the Nottingham Rifle Club.
A section of the cave network under the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre is now open as a tourist attraction.
Photo credit: Diego Sideburns/Flickr
Photo credit: Char/Flickr
Photo credit: Natasha and Wayne/Flickr
Photo credit: Glen Bowman/Flickr
Sources: Wikipedia / www.nottsheritagegateway.org.uk / nottinghamcavessurvey.org.uk / BBC
BBC Thursday, 18 November 2010
Archaeologists in Nottingham say they have uncovered the true site of one of the country's most infamous caves.
Mortimer's Hole is reputed to be the route by which Edward III's troops entered the city's castle to capture Roger de Mortimer, in 1330.
The young Edward is said to have suspected Mortimer of been involved in the murder of his father, Edward II.
In this video, do a "fly through" of Mortimer's Hole, with music by Model Fighter
The official entrance of Mortimer's Hole is next to Brewhouse Yard but archaeologists now believe the real tunnel originates in a garden in the Park Estate.
The discovery was made during the Nottingham Caves Survey, a two-year project in which a laser scanner is being used to produce a three-dimensional record of Nottingham's sandstone caves.
University of Nottingham archaeologist Dr David Walker said: "It's almost certainly the real Mortimer's Hole."
"Early documents talk of a secret passage which the modern one certainly wasn't because it was used for carting stuff up from the River Leen to the castle," he said. "The documents all fit with this tiny sliver of a blocked cave which runs into a man's garden."
Roger de Mortimer was sent to the Tower and then hanged on 29 November 1330.
The archaeologist believes the real Mortimer's Hole is a tunnel currently known as the North-Western Passage.
From the house on Castle Grove in the Park Estate, the passage stretches for 30-40 metres and is partly filled with rubble.
Dr Walker said, once you get past the debris, the full height of the tunnel is exposed and there are rock cut steps at the bottom and an arch at the top.
The passage would have emerged in the former Middle Bailey, now the Castle Green, but it is now blocked.
Commenting on the new discovery Dave Green, the man in charge of heritage sites for Nottingham City Council said: "History is always controversial and full of differing opinions and ideas.
"We will look forward to presenting this new information alongside the stories we have always told on our cave tours and leave for the public to choose for themselves which is the real Mortimer's Hole."
The Nottingham Caves Survey began in March 2010.
The team from Trent and Peak Archaeology are producing a record of more than 500 sandstone caves around Nottingham.
The entrance to the official Mortimer's Hole is near Brewhouse Yard
So far the team have fully surveyed 35 caves.
"It's been quite a lot of work but it's only a dent in the 500 or so in the city," said Dr Walker.
To be able to survey the caves the archaeologists need to manoeuvre their equipment through the passages.
"We think there's probably about 150 in the city that are still accessible, so we've made a reasonable stab at that.
"We've done quite a wide range of caves in that time in terms of age and uses, from domestic caves to pub cellars to sand mines and tunnels under the castle," he said.
The project, costing £250,000, has been funded by the Greater Nottingham Partnership, East Midlands Development Agency, English Heritage, the University of Nottingham and Nottingham City Council.