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Senior Member
posted 04-08-99 01:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for znachy   Click Here to Email znachy     Edit/Delete Message
Don`t you know any castle all around the world where underground passage is preserved?? In ancient chronicles I have discovered only information about destroyed ones. Please tell me more about this interesting topic. Thanx.

Philip Davis
posted 04-08-99 02:56 AM           Edit/Delete Message
Underground passages are one of those romantic myths that are so loved by those who like to tell children stories rather than let them know history. I certainly have seen building curators tell children completely made up stories to entertain them (usually these are ghost stories but not always). In England I know of only one underground passage in a castle. This is at Ashby de la Zouch Castle, in Leicestershire, where a 30 meter long passage connects the kitchen to the early 15th century Hastings Tower. This is clearly a service tunnel to bring food to the tower, certainly not a secret escape route.

Digging a passage was difficult and dangerous, both to the diggers and the castle structure, most English castles are built with shallow foundations on subsoil. One of the best ways to besiege a castle was to undermine a wall, that is to dig an underground passage beneath the castle, as happened at Rochester Castle, in Kent, in the siege of 1215. A mine and countermine survive at St Andrews in Scotland where they are dig into the bedrock, these now form an underground passage.

In other building with stories of secret underground passage these, where they exist, generally turn out to be sewers. Of course, when in desperate need, people will use sewers as escape routes and equally as secret routes for gaining entry into a building.

However, my knowledge is really restricted to England and Wales and I would be interest to hear about underground passages in other parts of Europe and indeed the world (I see very little about Indian castles)

Philip Davis
posted 04-08-99 03:10 AM           Edit/Delete Message
Oophs. I almost forgot Nottingham Castle. This castle is sat on a small spur of rock which is riddled with tunnels, caverns and cellars.

The following is what Plantagenet Somerset Fry says in Castles of the British Isles:-
Of the many historical events associated with Nottingham Castle, one is of special interest. The castle was held by Queen Isabella (widow of Edward II whom she and her lover, Roger Mortimer, had put to death in 1327). She and her paramour attempted to hold out against the young Edward III, but by tunnelling through the rock he entered the fortress and arrested the guilty pair. The actual tunnel is said to be that which is today called Mortimerís Hole and which can be inspected by visitors.

Senior Member
posted 04-08-99 03:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for znachy   Click Here to Email znachy     Edit/Delete Message
Thank you for a quick response. I have been to Britain three times and I have had an opportunity to admire your castles. Some are very impressive. I have also bought all literature I have seen in shops.
Well, I think secret passages are not only romantic legends. I agree with you it was not easy and expensive to dig such passage. But castles built on stone could have them. I have been in 20 m long escape tunnel when I have stayed in Ireland (Blarney Castle).
Several english and welsh castles have caves on the rock they are built e.g. Pembroke Castle or Carreg Cennen Castle. In my opinion it was not problem to connect with such underground chambers and dig the escape tunnel leading, for example to the river. Now I remember, Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland has such passage leading to the sea.
I know many maybe interesting things of czech castles and their secret passages. Unfortunatelly, none of discovered secret passages is easy accesible and usually after several metres it`s destroyed. If anyone would like to know anythink of czech castles, please contact me or visit my castle homepage.

Philip Davis
posted 04-08-99 11:17 AM           Edit/Delete Message
Thanks for the information. I do plan to visit west Wales this summer as the castle of Pembrokeshire are a gap in my knowledge.

I suppose the story of Nottingham castle is a good example of why secret passages are rare. It's as easy for someone to get in as it is for someone to leave!

Senior Member
posted 04-09-99 12:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for znachy   Click Here to Email znachy     Edit/Delete Message
"It's as easy for someone to get in as it is for someone to leave! "

It could be so, but it`s important to realise the passage could be easily defended. It also could have a lot of traps. The entry was usualy masked and in case of discovering or endangering of the castle the passage could be easily destroyed to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

[This message has been edited by znachy (edited 04-09-99).]

Senior Member
posted 04-10-99 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Geoff   Click Here to Email Geoff     Edit/Delete Message
I agree, underground passages are rare. The few that exist tend to be practical rather than romantic. You can still go down the short passage at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. It's quite narrow and very dark as I remember it.

Chateau Bouillon in southern Belgium stands on a high cliff above the river. It is a spectacular ruined castle that belonged to a famous crusader, Godfrey de Bouillon. It has a maze of underground rooms and passages. These too were used for practical purposes such as storage. It is a great place to explore though and I would recommend anyone interested in castles to visit it if they get the chance.

In England the best examples of underground passages are at Nottingham Castle. This castle too is built on top of a cliff, although most of the older castle has now gone. There are several underground passages and rooms. The main passage, called Mortimer's Hole, goes from the foot of the cliff right through the rock and comes out at the top. It was once used to bring supplies into the castle - a sort of back door I suppose. Visitors can go on a guided tour of the underground parts where the history of the passage is explained. There was another passage called the Western Passage, but this has been closed due to roof falls.

A slightly different sort of passage is the sort you get hidden in the thickness of a wall. Again they were probably built more for convenience than anything. The best example of this is at Warkworth Castle in Northumberland, England (near the border with Scotland). These passages go from room to room in the keep and are sometimes difficult to spot as the ruin is poorly lit inside.

There are some examples of brick lined tunnels that go outside of some old houses and castles, and emerge somewhere out in the grounds. These were once thought to be secret passages, but in most cases they turn out to be large drains that people could go inside to clean them out!

Senior Member
posted 04-11-99 09:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for duncan   Click Here to Email duncan     Edit/Delete Message
South Mimms,a 1140s motte and bailey, had a passage through the mound to a lower basement
chamber. Access was created as the mound
was built. This feature is not uncommon in later built castles, even if mined through solid rock.

Andrew Muller
posted 04-27-99 09:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrew Muller   Click Here to Email Andrew Muller     Edit/Delete Message
Bungay Castle in Suffolk has a very small cramped underground tunnel.

The best one I have been in is that at Basing House (Hampshire) which is a castle in all but name. It is very long, very steep and pitch dark. You have to get a key from the little shop and someone lets you in one end, and then lets you back out the other!! It isn't for the faint-hearted as it is uncomfortably easy to put your hands in unrecognisable furry and squidgy objects.

Carreg Cennen and Ashby are the most impressive underground tunnels, I guess. Some of Henry VIII's Castles (Deal, etc.) have semi-underground tunnels.

Dover Castle has a huge complex of large underground embrasures built by Hugh de Burgh in the mid 1200s. They are not dark dank tunnels in the traditional sense, but are quite DEFINITELY underground.

Philip Davis
posted 04-27-99 04:59 PM           Edit/Delete Message
I didn't known about Bungay. What was this tunnel used for?

I totally forgot about the Dover works. These are generally large and moderately well lit passages and it is easy to forget that you are underground (although they are underground only for fairly short lengths)

Philip Davis
posted 05-03-99 10:22 AM           Edit/Delete Message
In reply to my own question I've done some more research and discovered the origin of the tunnel at Bungay Castle. According to Hugh Braun, FRIBA, FSA this was a tunnel built to undermine Bungay to demolish it. This mine was built after Hugh Bigod, the owner of Bungay, had surrended to the king, Henry II, in 1174 and had lost all his castles which were order to be demolished. However he paid a ransom of 1000 marks and the castle was saved before the mine was completed. Although this is similier to a siege mine it was not built during a siege and starts at the base of the great tower, within the bailey. This is an interesting story but as this underground gallery of 26 feet (8 meters) was not linking places I wouldn't call it a passage.

I'm interested by Duncan's comments about South Mymms. I know this castle has been excavated and has produced some very interesting results (including evidence that this wooden castle was decorated to look like stone!) but I was unaware of a passage. Duncan says these are not uncommon but I would very much like to be given some other examples. (By the way does anyone have a reference to the excavation report on South Mymms?)

My experience is that underground passages designed for the regular use of medieval castle inhabitants in England and Wales are rare.

Senior Member
posted 05-03-99 12:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for duncan   Click Here to Email duncan     Edit/Delete Message
Farnham may well have had a entry in the mound, now collapsed.The other two equivalents of South Mimms, Ascot Doilly and Tote copse castle, although built in stone and in later years follow the same basic building plan.Of foundation built before the mound.
One other that may have had is Wolvesey. This type of construction seems to have been more common in Germany and France.It's very hard to be sure due to later rebuilding of these fortifications. Other sites are starting to show possible substructures as did Eynsford.

Philip Davis
posted 05-03-99 03:21 PM           Edit/Delete Message
My thanks to Duncan for your quick response.

I was aware of the similarities between South Mymms and Farnham and I looked up the English Heritage guide to Farnham before my last post.
I'd not considered the main entry to the Keep as a underground passage as it is open to the sky and is mainly above ground level but I think you may be refering to another passage not in the guide. Has their been some recent excavation at Farnham?

Senior Member
posted 05-06-99 07:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for duncan   Click Here to Email duncan     Edit/Delete Message
Like others, I depend alot on published professionals for my info. A 60's archeologcal report stated the main entry to the castle was the tunnel and had been coverd. The last report of excavations at the site, that I know of, was befor the 80's. The new entry, as you thought, may not be the original due to it being above ground.

posted 07-09-99 12:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for guzelyali   Click Here to Email guzelyali     Edit/Delete Message
Hey, Hi, Tunnels? Try the castle in the French city of Bitche, near the German border. It's riddled with tunnels. It's an old castle that has been updated during every war, and was part of the Maginot (sp?) Line pre-WWI. It's a great tour, though.
For more tunnels, try the underground cities of Kersheher (sp?) and Nevsheher (sp?) in central Turkey. Build by early Christians to hide from Romans. Each goes down more than 7 levels underground with room for hundred of people. Rolling "wheel" shaped doors that could be shut to keep out invaders. Lotsa fun.

posted 07-29-99 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Avey     Edit/Delete Message
I've enjoyed your converstion on underground passages. I'd like to add that the Rocca Maggiore in Assissi, Italy, has an in-the-wall passage leading from the castle ruins to a tower that is part of the town's outer defense wall. Visitors can traverse it, but if you go, bring a flashlight and wear nonskid shoes. The darkness is absolute, and the stairs are treacherously slippery.

Nicolas The First
posted 08-22-99 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Nicolas The First   Click Here to Email Nicolas The First     Edit/Delete Message
I think the Montsegur castle in the Pyrenees, France, have an underground passage that goes from the the themiddleof the mountain, to the top, where the castle is built.

Nicolas The first, king of the Vallebourg virtual kingdom.

Andy Knight
posted 08-28-99 04:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andy Knight   Click Here to Email Andy Knight     Edit/Delete Message
Windsor Castle appears to have an underground passage accessed via the Curfew Tower. It is described in St John Hopes book on the castle p.529.

Andy Knight
posted 09-01-99 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andy Knight   Click Here to Email Andy Knight     Edit/Delete Message
Interesting looking for further tunnels and passages. Knaresborough Castle in Yorkshire has two - both from the outerward and are about 15-20 metres long and end in the moat.

posted 09-18-99 04:36 PM           Edit/Delete Message
the remains of tunnelling by english assailants, and counter tunnels dug by the scots defenders remain as an enthralling feature of st Andrew's castle in Fife. Legends abound of tunnels leading from various Scottish Castles, and local stories of tunnels at Bedlay are probably unfounded. I cannot think of any others where they exist in fact. But then it is 12.30am. There are underground chambers at Craignethan with linking passages, but I believe these were built over rather than dug out.

posted 10-07-99 06:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for thoom   Click Here to Email thoom     Edit/Delete Message
The castle Valkenburg in the Netherlands has a large underground passage to miles of tunnels, connected to the chalk-stone quiry.
They have been used as hiding places through the centuries up to the second world war, people have build a church, sleepingrooms and stables in the chalk-rock.
It can only be visited by guide, because you certainly will be lost out there.

posted 07-12-2012 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pogle     Edit/Delete Message
I'm posting in part precisely because the topic is more than a decade old, but mainly because I found it googling the tunnel at Basing House. I grew up in Basingstoke and went to Basing House two or three times as a kid - in the late-60s. I went back around about the time this thread began, just out of curiosity; saw the locked gate on the tunnel, which I hadn't seen before.

I really don't know what, if anything, it says about the times, but having been there, and gone through the tunnel with our families one sunny Sunday afternoon, finding the ruins disappointing, but the tunnel thrilling, myself and the two brothers I did most of my roaming the district with, went back some months later, alone, after dark; walked two miles to get there and, as on a pretend commando raid, went through the tunnel in total darkness. I was the eldest and would have been at the most 10.

Maybe I am biased, but I don't think it 'works' with a locked gate.

[This message has been edited by Pogle (edited 07-12-2012).]

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