In 1855, residents of an exclusive Victorian neighborhood decided they wanted a private path to access their little town – one that only ran underground.
Unfortunately, the tunnel never came to fruition for practical use thanks to an engineering error. But today, it’s passageway is still hidden underneath the city…almost completely intact.
In the 19th century, the Duke of Portland recognized that the middle class was growing to a sizeable number and saw an opportunity to help establish a new residential development for them to inhabit – one where they could grow into a community with a voice in society. Since he owned nearby Nottingham Castle, there was nothing stopping him from converting a large chunk of his backyard into just that. To the west of the area, his architectural competition Watson Fothergill and T.C. Hine had been busy rapidly industrializing the area known as “The Park,” which featured many impressive residences. The Duke was ready to make a contribution of his own.
He commissioned Hine to excavate a tunnel underneath the city, making the most of the soft and crumbly sandstone substrate. The end result would be a grand and impressive approach to the wealthy new neighborhood from Derby Road, the main city path. With an incline of 1 in 14 along the tunnel’s length, the heavy horse-drawn carriages would have room to pass through. But something was miscalculated – and after lots of hard work, the incline was only 1 in 12. That made it too steep for even the strongest horses to haul a carriage. As a result, the tunnel was abandoned.
As quickly as possible, construction began on an alternative entrance road for The Park, and the tunnel was left to be reclaimed by nature. But that hasn’t stopped locals from using it for their own purposes, and over time, it transformed into a magnificent subterranean footpath. Its steep Victorian staircases and crumbly sides are kept intact by high brickwork – and the magic of the 350-foot-long passage lives on under the many footsteps of the present.