(DISCLAIMER: As an relatively nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offense rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model, and I probably have piles too.)
One of the more mysterious topics that I cover on this blog are the rumours that Shrewsbury has underground tunnels. And I've pursued these rumours with a fierce tenacity, and put my findings on this blog, whether it's something impressive like a blocked off cavern beneath Wyle Cop, or a simple suspicious archway.
While some of the wilder rumours are undoubtably just rumours, I've still seen enough proof that there were indeed underground means of accessing various places in the past, and I'm still pretty addicted. Most likely there was never a huge network. The Golden Cross is one of the most well known, and that was simply a means for the priests of Old St Chads to get to the pub without the public knowing.
So, long term readers will remember that I once checked out the cellar of a lovely little shop, sadly due for closure, called The Cave, and took photos of every architectural curiosity, as well as appreciating all the many wonderful things that they kept down there.
The Cave, for those of you who don't know, is a shop for the more spiritually inclined. It sells crystals, incense, jewellery, tarot cards and more. Customers can also book tarot readings, and energy healing, and they also hold events such as astral travel workshops. Their cellar is beautiful, and has a really calming atmosphere. It was the remnants of old tunnels that initially drew me down there, but there's so much more to it than just that. They've converted it into some kind of relaxation zone, or as they describe it on the door a "sacred space of peace and quiet." It's a museum of spiritual artefacts, including a remembrance angel where one can light a candle for someone they've lost, and a prayer tree which one can decorate with their positive vibes. The amount of effort that has gone into it is phenominal.
I'm no expert in that sort of thing, but I love the vibe down there.
Next to The Cave is a fudge shop, which used to be a deli. I happened to know a few of the former employees from the shops deli days, and as a result I've been aware for a long time that beneath the building are also architectural tidbits that could be seen as signs of old underground passageways. Prior to reopening, I managed to slip inside to see them for myself.
The stores current incarnation as Rolys Fudge Pantry is relatively recent but seems to be doing well, and from a consumer point of view, my taste buds have only nice things to say. You should totally shop here.
The shop has changed many times over the last few years. My detailed map of Shrewsbury from 1880 doesn't mention what it was, but Google Streetview goes back as far as 2009, and shows it as an art gallery. By 2011 it had reopened as a salon, but it was the deli by 2014. During all this time, the shop that would become The Cave was a solicitors and it's likely that throughout the comings and goings of random businesses, the oddities in the cellars remained ignored.
The store re-opened as a baker in 2016 but this didn't last and the Fudge Shop opened in 2017, shortly after I had a nose around.
And oddly, its layout is a mirror of The Cave. In fact,taking a second look at the exterior made me realise that they were once the same building! All the buildings are connected down this street, so it took me sneaking into the cellar to notice it, but it's true. Looking at the exterior, and how it connects to the surrounding buildings, it's obvious. There's a big central door, which likely served as the main entrance, but then at some point in its history, the building was altered, split into two, and converted into two shops.
And as such the cellar is symetrical, although you'll never notice it from looking at the individual cellar. One needs to step into both to see the big picture.
So in the Caves cellar is this relaxation chair. The Fudge Shops corresponding chamber isn't as spectacular, but let's not judge, the public isn't allowed down here.
But comparing a mirror cellar to the Cave when the contrast is so extreme kinda makes me think of the Cave as some mirrored alternative reality where everythings prettier. But unlike the Caves relaxation chair room, there is a blocked doorway at the back of this room. Where would that have gone?
I mean even if we don't think it's a tunnel going somewhere, it's still exciting. There could be an entire secret room back there.
A slightly more boring explanation could present itself on the map of 1880, which depicts this building as having a back yard. I don't know if that's still there, but this could very well have been a means of accessing it. It's a slightly boring explanation, I know, and as much as I love the idea of underground tunnels, usually the more boring explanation is the right one. This realistic viewpoint is what separates this blog from your typical urban explorer story, which would probably tell you that there was a lost Victorian sex dungeon back there or something. Thats the sort of crap urban explorers come out with. I'm still waiting for urban explorers to theorise that the owner of that bungalow I blogged about was a time traveler, the evidence being something silly, like there was a clock hanging above the door or something. OOOOOOHHH!!!!
Tunnel enthusiasts will be happy to know that this doorway points towards St Alkmunds and St Julians church. This could well be relevant. As mentioned, folks who worked in churches often required a secret means of accessing the pubs and brothels. Should any passage from here carry on across the street, the Golden Cross, which has been historically confirmed to have once had tunnels, lines up perfectly. Above ground, the central exterior door, which would have once been the buildings main entrance, lines up with Golden Cross Passage, where the old pubs tunnels were said to surface.
But that is all speculation.
This archway corresponds exactly with the archway beneath the Cave which contains Hermes bust,so logic would suggest that this is was once an unblocked means of crossing the cellar. There's a second archway obstructed by a wall there. It makes me wonder if this was a massive open space with decorative central arches.
The largest room of the cellar, corresponding with the one in the Cave, has a big fireplace on the corresponding wall to the Caves prayer tree. The wall of the cave mirrors this with an archway, which at the time I did get a little excited about. It's an archway, after all. Was it once a doorway?
However comparing it to the other wall makes me lean more towards this being a fireplace too.
Below I've included the wall for comparison.
Yeah, that brickwork was probably a fireplace.
Looking at the exterior of the building, it's this wall of the Cave that still retains its chimney. The wall of the fudge shop doesn't. At some point it must have been removed.
So sorry to all you tunnel enthusiasts. I'm pretty convinced that the archway behind the prayer tree was just another fireplace.
It's so strange to think that these two rooms are structural mirrors of each other but so different at the same time. It makes one appreciate the hard work and effort that went into making the Cave great.
Separating these two rooms is a wall. In the Cave, there are two very obvious doorways, and the Fudge Shop corresponds exactly.
Why are there two? I have no idea. Perhaps the rooms were once disected by another wall, but there is no evidence. However this room was once linked to the Cave via these doorways, which match up perfectly on both sides. Below are the Caves version, for comparison.
But all this proves is what I've said already- that the two shops were built as one building and separated as two businesses. This sort of thing happens all the time.
But there's one aspect of the Caves cellar that baffles and intrigues me, and that's their Water Goddess statue. It stands under an archway right at the front of the shop, with two blocked passages that fork left and right, underneath the street. Here's a picture of it.
People aren't permitted past the water goddess, but they couldn't get very far even if they did get past it. The tunnels spread a meter or so either way before being blocked. But where did they lead? Well, now I know that once, if one was to turn left at the river goddess, they would be taken right to the fudge shop cellar, again, because they have the exact same archway.
Look at that! And just like the Cave, it forks left and right but is blocked at both ends. If you turned right, and brought a sledgehammer along with you to knock the wall down, you'd find yourself behind the river goddess in the caves cellar.
But this is by far the most intriguing aspect. What happens if one could turn left here? Surely this passage would continue. It's under the street. One can hear footsteps on the pavement above their heads and everything. It's an obvious former underground passage to somewhere.
So in terms of trajectory, what is there to speculate about? Well, I did originally theorise since the building is on a slight bend that the Caves tunnel pointed at the OPO across the street. However, since the building, and tunnel, bend with the street, this points at Wyle Cop. Long time readers and tunnel enthusiasts might get excited because there ARE tunnels beneath Wyle Cop, and admittedly, it would be great if they all connected. But they're still a bit of a trek away. However, its totally feasable that this tunnel turns left at the top of Wyle Cop and leads to the churches. But again, that's speculation.
If one was to follow the passage in the opposite direction (turn right at the river goddess), then it literally just points at the bottom of Pride Hill. At first there doesn't seem to be any notable landmarks up there that might require a subterranean passage, but according to my 1880 map, the building at the bottom of Grope Lane, currently Costa, used to be a pub called the Cross Keys. And back then Princess House (Starbucks) was the site of Shire Hall.
So we have a handful of possibilities to speculate about.
Worth noting is, of course, Old St Chads. Historically documented is its famous tunnel to the Golden Cross pub, but also two other passages that led out from its crypt to parts unknown. While the trajectory of these passages doesn't point at the church, its proximity is still possibly relevant. The crypt collapsed centuries ago, taking most of the church with it, so we might never know where those tunnels led. Some speculation exists about it pointing at the music hall, due to some tunnels I found in between it and there, but also worth noting is that the cellar of Belmont Orthodontics, literally just across the street from the church, has an ancient tunnel vibe to it.
I only had my phone on me when I snuck down there, so excuse the poor focus...
But on that note, that's all I've got! I answered some questions though. Where did those doorways in the Caves cellar lead? Next door! Whoa! But the water goddess passage still remains a mystery.
And as one final thing to mention, the Cave will be shutting its doors soon, due to the cost of running a business in the town centre. The business will apparently still be operating somewhere else, so if this sort of thing is your thing, it's best to like their Facebook to get updates directly from them.
It is a shame, since the Cave does add a splash of character to the town centre.
Anyway, if you liked this blog, share it on social media. Like my Facebook, and follow my Instagram and Twitter.
And most important of all, if you know anyone who is struggling or unhappy, give them a hug, listen to them, confiscate their newspaper, and cheer them up. It's actually really easy to turn someones shitty day around.
That's all I got! Thanks for reading!