The Nottingham cave
s extend for more than five miles out around the city: they're not natural caves, but have been tunnelled out of the sandstone beneath the city at various points in the city's history and the bulk of the cave system has been there since Saxon
times. There are at least two official entrances to the cave system - one tour you can take from Nottingham Castle
, or from the museum in Brewhouse Yard, and another goes regularly down the entrance in Bridlesmith Gate to the cave section under Drury Hill, where there are remnants of an underground Victorian
street and a lot of war memorabilia
from when the caves were used as air-raid shelter
Thanks to the air-raid shelters there are a lot of unofficial and still-accessible entrances to the caves, some of which are connected to the cellars of local businesses and houses (making for lots of jolly caving fun for the residents!). In the Park, a Victorian housing estate behind the Castle, a cave grotto was discovered beneath one of the largest houses that had been turned into a private chapel, with plaster saints in niches. During the war poverty drove several families to actually make their homes in caves over at Sneinton, and their houses in the rocks, now empty, can still be seen.
On Mansfield Road, heading north out of the city centre, is the Northern Cemetery, another Victorian creation along the lines of the great landscaped cemeteries of London. In the middle of this cemetery is an unusual feature: a circular pit carved fifty feet deep into the ground, lined with brick arches reminiscent of Roman amphitheatres. It's known locally as the 'Plague Pit' as the bottom of it is lined with flat gravestones detailing the people who died in a deadly flu epidemic, some only a few hours old. The brick arches surrounding the pit are grilled over with metal bars, behind which more caves disappear into blackness. They were originally designed as catacombs, but never used as such. During the war, connecting tunnels on Peel Street and Mansfield Road provided access to the catacombs during air-raids. Now, despite the bars, people still get in: local gossip tells of all sorts of things going on down there from secret Satanic rituals to enormous drug stashes. My visit some time ago turned up nothing but a few torn posters from the war, some decaying mattresses and a very dead cat.