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Nottingham’s Maze of Medieval Caves gets fully surveyed

For the first time, the entire network of 549 caves underneath Nottingham has been fully surveyed, revealing new details about what lies under the surface of the English city.

Sandstone steps in the caves at Nottingham Castle - photo by Lee Hayward / Flickr

The Nottingham Caves Survey, which is run by Trent & Peak Archaeology and supported by a variety of organizations including English Heritage, carried the project using a 3D laser scanner to produce a full measured record of the caves in three dimensions. These caves are all man-made, as the ground underneath the city is made up of sandstone, which can be easily dug into.

The Anglo-Saxon writer Asser referred to Nottingham as Tigguocobauc = “the house of caves” and some of the caves date back over a thousand years. During the Middle Ages, some of the caves served as a tannery, chapel, kilns for malt and pottery and a secret entrance into Nottingham Castle.

More caves were created in modern times. Historic England reports, “The Victorians also used the caves as stables, for cold and fireproof storage, or as tourist attractions, follies, and summerhouses. In the 20th-century there were catacombs, garages, and air-raid shelters. There is even an underground skittle alley, with a slot carved in one wall for your ball to return through.”

In the mid-20th century efforts were made to preserve the caves, and they now serve as one of the main tourist attractions for Nottingham. The survey hopes to analyze which of the caves might be made publicly accessible, as well as used as filming locations, art spaces or coffee shops. The project is also working on a smartphone app to allow people walking through Nottingham to discover which caves are underneath them.

For more details, please visit the Nottingham Caves Survey website.



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