Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Underground tunnels at The Cave

I've blogged about underground tunnels in Shrewsbury before. I even wrote about the rumours of them in blog posts before I had anything conclusive to go by, and recieved a lot of criticism stating that it was all a myth and a stupid thing to want to research, and to be fair, they had a point. I don't know why it fascinated me like it did.

But then I produced photographs of subterranean chunks of Shrewsbury that spanned beneath numerous streets and local businesses that claimed to not have cellars, wrote several unbelievably popular blog posts on the subject, and then suddenly the criticism transformed into people getting in touch with leads, and by far the coolest correspondence with someone who saw me talk about underground tunnels on Facebook and then messaged me saying "Here's a website that knows a lot about them", linking me to my own blog!
And then finally I started getting questions, as if I was some kind of authority on the subject.

I'm not, by the way. Although that is flattering. I don't actually have much knowledge of the architectural history of Shrewsbury. I have, however, an unbelievably detailed map of Shrewsbury from 1880, and because I'm somewhat addicted and obsessed I've also (on modern maps) mapped out locations of known tunnel entrances, and their trajectories prior to the inevitable bricked up doorway, which has aided me in finding more.
But I stress, so much of this is still speculation. Short of a sledgehammer spree beneath the streets of Shrewsbury, it will probably always be speculation.

I've got conflicting opinions. Some of the rumours are pretty preposterous. But on the other hand, I've scurried around these things personally, and people don't build doorways to nowhere. Although in Shrewsbury even walking around above ground, you'll see plenty of those. But they all went somewhere once! And if we look back at the Prince Rupert Hotel, that cellar with its doorways pointing all over the place wasn't uncovered until they ripped up some floorboards in 2001. So what else is out there?

So far I'm not 100% convinced that there's an expansive sprawling network beneath Shrewsbury, but I'm fairly certain there are two smaller networks, one being the Abbey and the other being around the square. Regarding the Abbey, I've got three examples of evidence, although I've yet to compile it all into a blog post (But I will). Regarding the ones around the square, I'll get to that. But first I want to talk about a local shop that I love, called The Cave.

The Cave started out in Ludlow in 2010 as a place called "Realm to Realm" but had moved to Milk Street in Shrewsbury by the time I discovered it while heading down there to check out a cafe called C Sons, which I heard had an underground tunnel pointing right at St Julians church. When I got there, I found that the tunnel had been bricked up, although I still enjoyed a coffee in their very lovely garden before checking out The Cave next door. The Cave is a store for the more spiritually inclined. Inside you'll find books, crystals, incense, soaps, jewelry, clothes, among much, much more. It's very much a world I've only really paddled in, but keep meaning to go back to for a headfirst dive. The shop smelled nice, and they made me chuckle with a playful sign hanging on the display reading "Thieves will be cursed."

More recently, The Cave has moved from Milk Street onto High Street. That's the one that connects Wyle Cop to the Square. I decided recently to go and check out the new store, and found that it also has a subterranean relaxation chamber!

Now, I'm no expert in these sorts of things, so I don't know the symbolism behind the pyramid or the floor. My sister was very spiritually inclined back in the day. I tried to follow but things didn't work out. My Mother was occasionally into matters of the post-physical universe but only if other people were and she wanted to 1up them by claming that she was more into it than them, and even then it tended to be along the lines of claiming to be reincarnated from whichever famous person she was a fan of at the time. One only needs to read about my milk phobia to understand that the mind of the womb bearer isn't the most healthy. It wasn't the sort of mind I wanted galloping through my interests in this topic, and so I dumbed those interests down, and as events progressed I stopped venturing into that world entirey.

But then, one only needs an open mind to step into the world that The Cave lives in, and the staff are very inviting. This relaxation pyramid sure looks inviting too. I haven't actually tried it. I'm sure even for the non-spiritually inclined, this chair could really be a hit. Especially that lucky minority who get ASMR (triggerable Scalp Tingles for no apparent reason, it's very relaxing).

To my delight, the cellar was very expansive, and the staff at The Cave have really made something out of it. There wasn't an archway that wasn't spoken for. And this place was sure not lacking in archways. Almost immediately on descent I spotted a huge bust of Hermes in what was clearly once a doorway.

Now, this is actually pretty far from the actual street, so as far as I'm concerned, while this is clearly a doorway, all it's really proof of is that The Cave and the shop next door used to be connected via cellar.

The Cave, having been opened only recently at this spot, doesn't yet show up on Google Street View. Street view was last updated in October 2015, and as such shows The Cave as a big empty building covered in scaffolding that I didn't climb at the time because I was pretty sure it's all flats above it, and I know I'd be pissed off if my block of flats was covered in scaffolding and I was chilling in my lounge when some weirdo climbed past my window, so I don't do it to other people. Although I did do it to my neighbours when my own block of flats was wrapped in scaffolding, but they were cool with it. They've been living above me for five years. They're used to me.
The Cave on street view appears to be a former Wace Morgan solicitors, and according to staff at The Cave, they had the cellar painted very plain. Whereas now, and this amazed me because it must have taken forever, the brickwork beneath The Cave is painted to look like brickwork naked of paint. So really, when we look at these archways what we're looking at is a clever artistic illusion of what these walls used to look like.

Beyond this sign was a rather spacious room, filled with artefacts and an amazing atmosphere. The Cave had truly taken advantage of the space and created a museum of positive vibes right below everyones feet.
I'm really loving this angel statue.

 Facing towards Wyle Copp were these two doorways. At first glance one could assume that they probably led to the exact same place as the Hermes doorway back in the day, which doesn't sound very exciting at first glance, but then I suppose one of these doors could have led to stairways going up into the next building, like that building next to the Hole in the Wall, or seeing as these are pointing down Wyle Copp, which is a downhill slope, it makes sense to think that maybe one door led to a downward staircase. So none of these doorways necessarily have to have led to the same place.
Also chronologically speaking, while these two look the same age, they could be decades apart in their time of usefulness, and that applies to the Hermes arch too.

 The above photo was taken with the flash, but that really takes away the atmosphere of the place.

The Cave apparently have a source of knowledge, who has a lot more knowledge of underground tunnels than I do, who has confirmed these doorways to actually be doorways and not just arches for sarcophagi and other decorations. The sarcophagus actually opens up to reveal shelves, which is pretty awesome.

Looking in the exact opposite direction towards the square, The Cave have their prayer tree, where people hang their hopes in a congregation of positive vibes.

I almost missed the gigantic arch way behind the prayer tree. As mentioned, the brickwork down here is painted on, but all the artist has done is add detail to what's there in order to bring it back to some resemblance to what it once was. The arched brickwork was very real, and as we all agreed, people don't build that kind of archway for no reason. This was something, long ago, and its contrast to the other doorways wasn't unnoticed, but if anything it strongly resembles the Prince Rupert tunnel remains.

And again, it begs the question, why were the tunnels here in the first place? Why are some of them wider and some of them simple passages? And why do they transition from this one, from doorways at one end to wide arches at the other?

But perhaps most intriguing was the water feature, facing Old St Chads, and protruding beneath the street. What was this? Footsteps and traffic could be heard above, as I examined the statue and the archway. This was under the street. There were people over my head going about their days none the wiser.

Contrary to what the sign says, I did ask if I could not only approach the fountain but poke my camera around it. You see, Miss Water Goddess happens to be guarding  a T shaped tunnel protrusion beneath the road that really blows the idea that underground tunnels are a myth right out of the water.

Brickwork on the walls, stone work on the doorway. That in itself is also telling. But also, feel free to scroll back to the picture of The Cave from the exterior. It's right on the curve of the road, so in terms of trajectory, this passage isn't pointing to the building next door at all, but rather across the street, right at the Old Post Office. But thinking back to C Sons which allegedly had a tunnel that stretched from their location on Milk Street to St Alkmunds church,  this place is right between them both, and so must have been connected to that, and that strongly implies that it was part of The Squares tunnel network (I said I'd get to it).

I don't officially know for certain that it is actually a tunnel network. As I said, it's mostly speculation and logic. But C Sons is close to the one historically official tunnel, which was from the Golden Cross pub to the crypt of Old St Chads, which isn't very far, admittedly, but then throw into the mix that Old St Chads crypt had three arched doorways leading away from the church and nobody knows where the other two went, and we have ourselves imagination candy. Princess Street then comes along with an underground tunnel running almost the length of it. I've seen very large chunks of that one personally. Carluccios restaurant claims to have tunnel remains but doesn't let people see them due to Health & Safety. Two words I have come to loath. But then just down from that, you've got the Music Hall, which I've documented, and recently learned that there is written documentation of the tunnels stemming from that, although it's referred to as Vaughans Mansion.

And nearby you've got Jaeger which evidence suggests was once connected to the Hole in the Wall, right behind it. Rumour has it that before Jaeger was fixed up the way it is now, a tunnel went from there under the square to what is now Princess House. What was where Princess House is now? Only Shire Hall.

And then, a little while ago when a building in the square that I failed to get access to (at least subterranean) was being renovated, this picture was posted by one of the workers on Facebook.

I'm truly annoyed that I didn't get to photograph all this personally. It allegedly points underneath The Square.

Regarding the Cave, I decided to consult my map of Shrewsbury from 1880 to see what that said about the buildings history. To my shock and amazement, (one which saw my arch nemesis, Gravity, give my jaw a good downwards yank), what was in The Caves spot was frustratingly wonderful. You see, my map of 1880 Shrewsbury is so detailed, one has to zoom in if one is to read any text. So I've never actually studied the entire map, only the parts that I'm researching at any given moment.

Marked on top of The Cave was not any specific building name, but it did have, in italics, the word "Und." Leading from The Cave in both the direction of the square and St Alkmunds, was a dotted line marked "Und" frequently along it. Had I had a map of subterranean Shrewsbury in my posession all this time?

My heart sank somewhat when I found out that "Und" on old maps actually means “undefined boundary," meaning one where there was no real-world feature to align the boundary to when it was surveyed. Well that's somewhat less exciting.

Still, the dotted line does follow a few of the rumoured underground tunnel paths, and does match the t-shaped tunnel that protrudes from The Cave, so maybe there is a connection. It doesn't touch the Music Hall or anywhere around the square though. But keep in mind, the map is of 1880 so presumably, even if it did refer to underground tunnels, it would only refer to those accessible in 1880. A lot of what I've seen is far older.

But again, is there even a connection to underground tunnels? I'm trying to marry two lots of speculation with no architectural or historic knowledge so it would be a miracle if anything coherent did emerge.

In fact it would scare the willies out of me.

But let's be honest, look at the Music Hall. Look at the Prince Rupert Hotel. Look at todays photos of The Cave. Look at any other thing I've written about regarding underground tunnels. These things are real. Once, long ago, one could cross chunks of Shrewsbury underground. Of this I am certain. So if anyone in Shrewsbury who owns or has access to a place that's standing over some remains of ancient tunnels, please get in touch. I'd love to see.

But to bring this back to The Cave, if I've done an inadequate job of describing the store, please check out their website, http://www.thecaveshrewsbury.co.uk or better yet, check out the store. The Cave is a great little store, and the staff are friendly and welcoming. The relaxation pyramid is definitely something I intend on returning for.And to repeat, please get in touch if you do have any additional info regarding the tunnels. It's something I have legitimate fascination in.

In the mean time, check out The Cave. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram so that you can get regular updates, and also if you haven't made anyone smile today, go out and compliment someone because that stuff can never happen too often. Bonus points if you get a hug. I'll love your forever if you share the blog, and the blog will get even better if you donate to the adventure fund (button in top right corner). All donated money will go towards equipment that will only make Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not better.

Thanks for reading. Stay Awesome!


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this blog Thanks for sharing

  2. Fascinating stuff I look forward to reading more! Thank you for sharing your adventure :)

    1. Thanks! I'll definitely have more coming up :D

  3. Really interesting read, thank you!

  4. Found this blog through Instagram and I 'm so thrilled I have! I recently moved to Shrewsbury and I'm fascinated by the history hiding in every corner of this beautiful town. I had the pleasure to visit The Cave a couple of times before they moved to High Street. I was a bit disappointed that they have changed the location as the old place was so magical but I haven't popped into the new one yet. Now I definitely have to! And I'm even more excited.
    Interesting blog, good read. You're doing a great job! Thanks :)

    1. Thank you! I love the history of Shrewsbury, and it's very photogenic. Since you're new to Shrewsbury, if you ever want someone to show you around I'm totally up for that :)

    2. Oh thank you Luke, that's very kind of you! I will keep it in my mind and for now I have a plenty to catch up reading your blog.

  5. Great to read about the history of the tunnels and the cave

  6. Great blog. I've just found out about the Shrewsbury's tunnels and would very much like to explore them. Could you please help me out with finding the Shrewsbury tunnels

  7. Hi Luke,
    Just wondering if you could give a snippet of help, I do understand you probably get asked ALOT! My 10 year old son is doing a presentation for school on "Underground Shrewsbury" and we just wondered if you could give some advice on the friendliest place in town to go and ask if we could go and take some pictures or evidence of tunnels we can get to easily!? He's desperate to follow in your footsteps! He is doing his presentation next Thursday.Thanks in advance....Ali and Jack