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Archaeologists to probe newly-discovered tunnels

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A team of archaeologists has been drafted in to explore secret tunnels discovered beneath an historic West Midland home.

A team of archaeologists has been drafted in to explore secret tunnels discovered beneath an historic West Midland home.

The tunnels have been found at the 13th century Manor House in West Bromwich, and experts from Birmingham University are preparing to go inside and discover more secrets about the building. The entrance and exit to the network of tunnels was discovered earlier this year when the moat was drained as part of the ongoing restoration works.

Frank Caldwell, principle officer for museums arts and tourism in Sandwell, said: "We discovered an entrance large enough for a person to crawl through that seems to connect to some open drainage channels at the other end of the building.

"It's possible that this tunnel was part of the medieval sewage disposal system for the Manor House which diverted a local spring under the building to remove toilet waste.

"It's large enough for a person to crawl into because that's how any blockages would have been removed in medieval times.

"Clearing medieval toilets was a regular task and carried out by a particular member of a household staff know as a 'Gong Farmer'."

The archaeologists, under the direction of historic buildings expert Dr Malcolm Hislop from Birmingham University, are planning to explore the tunnels which will reveal more secrets about the history of the Grade I listed Manor House, in Hall Green Road.

Mr Caldwell added: "The purpose of the exploration is twofold. Firstly, to attempt to confirm this is, in fact, what the tunnels were for.

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"Secondly, to check the condition of the tunnels and see if the network extends under other parts of the building.

"Unfortunately the tunnels are too small to allow public access."

Staff at the house are preparing to open it up to the public for the first time in years, and are preparing guided tours to take place over the May Bank Holiday.

The house was saved from demolition by the former West Bromwich Corporation in the 1950s.

By Lucy Townsend

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