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Town's ancient network of tunnels and cellars focus of new project

PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:00 27 November 2019

Archaeology student Jake Brader is hoping to uncover some of the mysteries hidden beneath the streets of North Walsham's town centre. Picture: Jake Brader

Archaeology student Jake Brader is hoping to uncover some of the mysteries hidden beneath the streets of North Walsham's town centre. Picture: Jake Brader

Archant

A student hopes to unveil the secrets beneath North Walsham's town centre and its hidden network of ancient cellars and tunnels.

Jake Brader wants to discover what's beneath North Walsham's Market Place. The town is pictured here in the late 1950s. Picture: LES EDWARDS/NORTH WALSHAM AND DISTRICT COMMUNITY ARCHIVE GROUPJake Brader wants to discover what's beneath North Walsham's Market Place. The town is pictured here in the late 1950s. Picture: LES EDWARDS/NORTH WALSHAM AND DISTRICT COMMUNITY ARCHIVE GROUP

Jake Brader, 22, who is studying archaeology at Sheffield University, wants to get to the bottom of what the cellars were used for and establish how extensive the tunnel network actually is.

Mr Brader, who grew up in the town, said he had long been fascinated by North Walsham's history, and this project was a way of exploring it further in between his studies.

He said: "Underneath every shop on the Market Place there is a cellar, and the thinking is that in between these cellars there are tunnels that link not just those next to each other, but that they also run beneath the high street.

"There's quite a lot of mystery around the tunnels and what's really down there."

North Walsham's Market Place. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorth Walsham's Market Place. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mr Brader said much of the town centre was rebuilt after a major fire in the year 1600, and many cellars would date from the following couple of centuries.

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An account from the time said blaze started in the house of a "poor and lewd person" who was fleeing the law, and 118 houses, 70 shops and many other buildings were destroyed.

This newspaper reported in 2001 about town centre regeneration works being delayed because workers had been running into underground cellars and tunnels.

And in 2011 street lighting contractors who failed to alert shopkeepers about their plans almost dug their way through to cellars under the town centre.

Mr Brader said it was unclear what the tunnels may have been used for, but there were some theories.

He said: "Some people have suggested the tunnels were built so shopkeepers didn't have to walk along the street carrying large amounts of money.

"It's certainly fascinating what could be uncovered."

Mr Brader said he wanted to start compiling a map showing the extent of the tunnel network, and eventually ask for permission to access the basements of shops along the high street.

Anyone who could help Mr Brader with his project can contact him by email on je.brader@yahoo.co.uk.



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