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Town’s tunnel tour reveals hidden history

Dark cellars and dirty wet underground tunnels may not be everyone’s idea of fun but for a group of Frome amateur historians the past five years has seen them searching beneath the town investigating what history may lie beneath the streets.

To give people a sneak preview of what they have been doing the group took visitors enjoying the Frome Festival on a tour of three of their key finds.

The team has been looking at underground features to help build up a picture of historic Frome, and investigations so far have included some of the waterways under the town centre, underground water channels at the Silk Mill and an 80ft deep well on Locks Hill.

All of these sites date back two, three and 400 years and are likely to have been created at the same time as some of the rumoured tunnel system.

Visitors first made a trip to The Wheat Sheaves in Bath Street and donning head torches and hard hats descended below the popular pub to view the unique four large inter connected cellars dating back from before the time the Bath Road itself was built.

Alongside the tour under the tunnels beneath the bridge in the town visitors were treated to an eye opening sight, an Elizabethan ice house beneath one of Frome’s oldest pubs, The Lamb and Fountain in Castle Street, which astonishingly could keep ice frozen for up to two years.

Beneath the pub there was also a brewery and huge cellars that are still in virtually the same state as when they were operational.

The team has also recently discovered three blocked tunnels in The Griffin on Milk Street.

Many of the town’s other older inns are rumoured to have similar structures, as are some of Frome’s churches.

This has led to speculation that Frome has a tunnel system dating back to the Reformation, which priests and smugglers would have used as escape routes with rumours of the tunnels heading out of the town as far as Nunney.

Robin Hill, co-founder of the tunnel team, said: “If tunnels do exist, they were practically created over a wide time period, perhaps for a variety of reasons however we are certain that other than drainage works, ‘secret tunnels’ must have been create for very good reasons, which had significant funding behind them.”

Suzanne Norbury

Somerset Standard article

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