Beneath Nottingham lies network of ancient man-made caves used as a tannery, house cellars & air raid shelters

Nottingham, England, is arguably best described as a celebration of history, legacy, and culture. This lovely city, located on the north bank of the River Trent in Nottinghamshire, was once the core of Britain’s lace industry and was regarded as one of the country’s most important commercial cities.

However, its relationship with Robin Hood, the most renowned English folk hero, who is said to have resided in Sherwood Forest near the city, is what distinguishes Nottingham as a distinctive tourist attraction, and as such, the city is visited by millions of tourists each year.

But Nottingham has so much more to offer, and if we walk a little further into history, I mean literally deeper, beneath Nottingham’s houses, clubs, businesses, and streets, we will be delighted to uncover a fascinating subterranean world of various man-made caverns waiting to be explored.

Cave Exit Author: Lee J Haywood CC by 2.0

What distinguishes this location is the fact that there is no other area in Britain with more man-made caverns than the one found in Nottingham. The region, known as the “City of Caverns,” is still being researched by archaeologists and consists of a network of over 500 sandstone caves that are thought to have existed for as long as the city or perhaps longer.

Medieval Tannery at City of Caves in Nottingham. Author: Mutt CC BY-SA 3.0

Asser, a Welsh monk and historian who lived during Alfred the Great’s reign (849-889) and is best known as his biographer, was the first to mention the “City of Caves” in his detailed biography of King Alfred, The Life of King Alfred, written in 893, referring to the area as “Tiggua Cobaucc,” which means “place of caves.”

The entrance to Mortimer’s cave, a tunnel that led up into the upper bailey of Nottingham Castle Author:Char CC by 2.0

The creepy underground caverns have been utilized for a variety of purposes, including brewhouses for beer. It’s no surprise that numerous caverns were utilized as brewhouses because the temperature within the caves was suitable for the purpose. In truth, the caves beneath Nottingham Castle were utilized for making and storing beer.

The “Enchanted Well” Author: Mutt CC BY-SA 3.0

Another fascinating historical story related to the caverns beneath Nottingham Castle is that King Edward III used the caves to penetrate the castle and ended up imprisoning both his mother and her lover, Roger de Mortimer, who was the ruler of England at the time.

Many destitute Nottingham residents took shelter deep within the tunnels, but the government demanded that the caves be abandoned with the 1845 Enclosure Act. Despite the city’s directives, many individuals continued to live in caverns outside the city. Whole families were housed in cramped rooms under appalling living circumstances that frequently resulted in cholera and TB.

The caverns were most recently utilized as air raid shelters during World War II. They performed a critical part in saving the lives of many Nottingham residents during the Nottingham Blitz, which happened on May 8, 1941, and remains Nottingham’s largest raid to this day. Over 1,000 bombs were dropped on the city, killing 200 people and wounding hundreds more. During the worst hours of the war, however, many people fled to the centuries-old tunnels, which were the greatest potential air raid shelters the city could afford.

Nottingham Cave Houses Author:Dun.can CC by 2.0

Every year, Nottingham residents and archaeologists uncover additional man-made caverns, with more than 100 caves discovered in the last decade. Over 200 caverns are thought to exist underneath Nottingham that have yet to be uncovered.

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