tunnels


tunnels
   There is nothing more common in local tradition than stories about secret tunnels; to give individual references is impossible, but most books on local history and lore include some. They are said to run from castles, inns, churches, manor houses, or virtually any old and notable building, and to lead to another building, or down to the sea, or occasionally into the depths of a hill. Most people who talk or write about them do so with belief, partly because sometimes short lengths of tunnelling are indeed found leading off from the cellars of old buildings, though so far these have always turned out, on investigation, to be merely ice-houses or drains. But the tunnels of rumour and tradition are far longer, often running for impossible distances, and through impossible terrain - under rivers, through swampy or sandy ground, where they would inevitably soon collapse or become flooded.
   Most have some sort of explanation attached, drawing on real or imagined history. The tunnel may be said to have served as a secret passage for smugglers; or to enable priests or monks to leave their buildings unobserved (in order to meet their mistresses, especially if these were nuns); or as a secret entrance to a castle. A modern variation is to allege the existence of deep civil or military shelters, linked by a network of underground passages. Such places do exist (the cliffs of Dover are said to be honeycombed with them), but it strains credulity to be told, 'When the new Public Library was being built at X, they put in a nuclear shelter for the Mayor at the same time.'
   Tunnels can also be places where *treasure is hidden, and where *ghosts walk, either in the tunnel or above ground, following its track. A tragic story is told about eight or nine of them: two men who had seen one end of a tunnel wanted to know where it led to, or whether there was treasure in it. One of them was a musician; at Richmond Castle (Yorkshire) he is said to have been a drummer boy, but at Grantchester (Cambridgeshire) and elsewhere, a fiddler or a piper. This musician entered the tunnel and walked along it, playing as he went, while his friend followed above ground, tracking him by the sound; suddenly the music ceased, and the musician was never seen again. It has been pointed out that in some places where this story is told there is a small wood called Fiddler's Copse midway along the supposed course of the tunnel (Folk-Lore 34 (1923), 378-9).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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