There’s often another world right beneath your feet. The City of Caves is Nottingham’s most popular tourist attraction. It is composed of over 500 individual caves, carved from the sandstone upon which Nottingham was built, connected together in a network by a series of tunnels. The caves have been used for over a thousand years, serving as an artisan bazaar, a haven for the homeless, and even an air raid shelter. By the end of 2014 over 500 caves had been recorded, around 100 of which were only discovered in the last 4 years.
A MANMADE MARVEL
The city of Nottingham is located atop a soft sandstone ridge. This type of sedimentary rock can easily be shaped with handheld tools, and it is believed that the area’s inhabitants started excavating the caves earlier than 900AD. It was around this time that the first written evidence of the caves’ existence is dated. It is referenced by the Welsh historian Asser, Bishop of Sherborne, in his biography of Alfred the Great: The Life of King Alfred.
When the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre was built in the late 1960s, it was found to be located at site of the main entrance to the caves. This resulted in the opening of the caves to vandals and plans were made to seal the entries with concrete, which led to a public outcry. The caves were cleared of debris in the early-to-mid 1970s by the volunteers at the local Air Training Corps, and were officially opened to public tours by the Friends of Nottingham Museum in 1978.
A MULTITUDE OF USES
Some of the caves have been found to have accommodated certain purposes. Two caves, now named the Pillar Cave, were originally home to Britain’s first and only underground tannery. The cave itself is dated to around 1250AD, but had been filled in by a rock fall by 1400AD. It was reopened in 1500AD for use as storage for barrels and for the cleaning of animal hides.
Another series of caves are known as the Drury Hill Slums, for the remains of old cellar walls found there underneath Drury Hill; a once wealthy medieval neighbourhood that had lapsed into one of the most downtrodden districts in 19th century England. The abundance of poor families living in cramped conditions caused the caves to be a breeding ground for smallpox and cholera, although all traces of such infestations are now gone.
In 1941, some caves were enlarged in order to serve as public air raid shelters for the city’s inhabitants during the Second World War. Holes in the walls around the caves were dug in order to supply sand for sandbags that helped to fortify the city above ground.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Silverhill Lane, Teversal
Nottinghamshire, England, NG17 3JJ
+44 (0)1623 551 838
- Address: Broadmarsh, Carrington St, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England, UK, NG1 7LS
- GPS: 52.949978,-1.148725
- Phone: 0044 (0)115 988 1955
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: NG1 7LS
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Limited by the nature of the caves
- Visibility from Road: None at this entrance
- Image Credits: Header Image: Majeczka