Sunday, 13 February 2011

Subterranean Adventures!

After taking the photographs that imagined some little houses beneath the floor, yesterday I went below ground for real on one of the Manchester underground tours!

'Look down, you might never know what you’re missing. A whole world lies under your feet deep below the city.' - Its true, it seems there are tunnels literally all over Manchester, some of the ones workers come across aren't even recorded on reference maps.

The guide first took us to some points in the city above ground and told us stories of the secret tunnels that we couldn't go in to. One of these is the nuclear bunker - this is the entrance to it on St James Street, where inside there is a 35-ton concrete door sealing the entry point:

It's made up of tunnels that lie 100 feet below ground and run for 4 miles across the city. Built in the early stages of the Cold War to protect against the A Bomb, they must have felt pretty silly by the time of its completion because by then the H Bomb had replaced the A Bomb, and it wouldn't be able to withstand one of those.
Apparently there's enough tinned food down there to last several months, as well as a recreation room with a piano and pool table. And to keep the workers spirits up they painted windows on the walls showing beautiful landscape views!

The bit of the tour where we got to go underground was into the Second World War shelters built inside the Manchester and Salford Junction canal. It was drained of water and built into big chambers, but of course it's still really wet and damp, making it hard to imagine how people could have slept down there. It was very creepy, we were imagining all sorts of creatures and ghosts that might be living down there. But it was brilliant to explore and definitely fits in with my project at the moment.
These are my photos: (it's pitch black in places without torches so my camera said no to taking too many)

That above is a mushroom.

Some of the other secret tunnels the guide told us about include an abandoned tube line, which was never finished because they ran out of money.
A secret bunker under the Midland House Hotel that Hitler had his eye on using.
And secret passageways below the Cathedral which it's thought were used by Catholics to escape through.

I'm absolutely fascinated by the discoveries of these secret places and hearing the stories that go with them. In a way, I think just knowing that they exist somewhere is even more thrilling because they remain ambiguous places that could be anything your imagination can conjure up.
However I would still jump at the chance of going inside those Cathedral tunnels!
This day out has definitely added a lot of inspiration to ideas I have at the moment.

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