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Hidden Tunnels Dug Up By Builders

Hidden Tunnels Dug Up By Builders (Plymouth Herald Nov 26 2014)

Morris Leslie Plant Hire excavator caught on camera! The Herald in Plymouth wrote the following story on Nov 26 2014.

Hidden Tunnels Dug Up By Builders On Plymouth Hoe

A LITTLE bit of history has been unearthed at the former West Hoe tennis courts.

As the work continues on the site, builders have uncovered a large limestone rubble-built tunnel – which was supposedly used as an air raid shelter during World War Two.

Lawrence Butler of Rivage Estates Ltd, which owns the site, told The Herald that the underground tunnel was known about from the beginning, and builders are now working to segregate it.

The tunnel leads from the building site to the waterfront, where limestone was taken onto ships to be exported.

But other tunnels in the vicinity, and possibly the tunnel in question, were subsequently utilised during the war to shelter from air raids.

Mr Butler said: “We have been in the tunnels, but there is nothing to see really. It is quite exciting though.”

Mr Butler revealed that inside the tunnel there are items currently being stored from the Wet Wok, which was badly flooded during the winter storms. Mr Butler added: “We’re cutting it [the tunnel] back to our boundary now. We have to dig down to create the car park.”

Plymouth resident Ern Downey, who lives in Ford and was a young child during the Blitz, believes the underground tunnels were used by both American and English gunners to hide from the bombs.

Mr Downey said: “There are lots of tunnels and caves and such under West Hoe. It is rumoured that American gunners used to hide there to take cover if there were heavy air raids.”

Although Mr Downey didn’t personally shelter under West Hoe, as he lived in St Budeaux at the time, he had a friend who did.

“Monica and her husband Jim used to go to reenactment days,” he said. “She said that she would take me there [West Hoe] to show me but then she died.” A Plymouth City Council spokesperson said the tunnel had been reported to English Heritage. “It is not unusual for artefacts to be discovered in the course of new development works in and around Plymouth,” the spokesperson said.

“One of the council’s senior historic environment officers visited the site yesterday to inspect the find and record it.

“This has also been brought to the attention of English Heritage so they can assess if the tunnel is of particular historic interest.”


THERE are plenty of myths and stories surrounding Plymouth’s supposed forgotten tunnel network. Legend has it that there is a tunnel which leads from Drake’s Island to the Hoe. Other rumours are of a top secret tunnel network under Mount Wise, and that all the forts in Plymouth are connected by underground passageways.

A labyrinth of smugglers’ tunnels are believed to be underneath the Barbican. Centuries ago Plymouth’s ‘press gang’ members reportedly used the tunnels to take unknowing drunken locals to waiting ships.

Last year three tunnels in Devonport, dating back to the Napoleonic War, went under the hammer. The chambers on Devonport Hill were used in World War Two as air raid shelters for Plymouth residents during bombing raids. The chambers’ origin was reportedly in the days when Devonport was a fortified town with its own moat and drawbridge.

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