Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Day of the Dover pt. 4 - Soldier's Home Tunnel/Snargate Tunnels East/Historex Tunnels - October 2013

These tunnels have had multiple names over the years, so I've stuck three in the title. This one was sort of accidental really. We parked up on Snargate Street and were originally going to attempt Oil Mills Upper/Lower, but Altair didn't fancy the scramble with his back still being an issue. I remembered that what I thought were D.o.E. tunnels were just down the road, and after a quick scout and linger waiting for pedestrians to clear off we made our way in. I was a bit confused as I seemed to remember that D.o.E. looked bigger, and it turns out that we actually went in Solider's Home tunnels. 

Some history from subterranean history:
This is the Eastern end of a large tunnel complex in Snargate Street, which began as separate tunnels but were linked during WW2 for use as air raid shelters. The main part of this section is the 900ft long Cowgate Tunnel which connected Snargate Street with Durham Hill. Unfortunately, this tunnel was penetrated by a shell during WW2 which resulted in the death of 63-year old Mrs. Patience Ransley, who was sheltering inside at the time. The tunnel is blocked at the point of the shell penetration, which occured within the grounds of Cowgate Cemetery on the surface. It is however possible to go much further than the blockage shown on the plan below, but conditions are poor due to roof falls and rotten timber props. Due to revelopment of the Durham Hill area, the entrance at that end seems to have vanished. The passage going West from the main entrance tunnel passes a vent shaft and kiln, and was originally known as 'Soldiers' Home Caves', due to them being behind the old Soliders' Home. The passage continues to a metal gate which blocks access to the next set of tunnels, which are known as 'Croucher's Tunnels'.

I was under the impression that these tunnels were D.o.E, so was confused when I didn't see the railway. After venturing up to the chalk-lined section I realised I was in somewhere different. We didn't fancy going through the broken timber supports for fear of death, so didn't see all that this tunnel has to offer. 

The tunnels are now used for storage, housing such items as a work bench and the trailer shown below. They are also home to dozens of the popular false widow spider, or at least Altair thought that's what they were. I'm not sure myself. 

 After spending forty minutes in there we decided to make a move, and before we got in the car for the final time I recommended nipping down to the Grand Shaft as we were parked practically on top of it. The volunteers were just in the process of locking up, but after a nice word and mentioning that we had been at Drop earlier in the day the chap let us in to take some photos. I ended up chatting to him for quite some time as the others ran up and down. He was also a fan of our work, and knew many of the underground places in Dover having been himself. I only bothered with one photo myself having been before. I quickly checked, and my signature from before hadn't been rubbed off... yet.

So there we have it, the end of an eventful day in Dover. We probably could have done another site or two, but we were all pretty knackered, and the length of time that it would have taken just to get boots on/off with waterproofs it probably wasn't worth it. Thanks for Altair for driving.

Thanks for reading.


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