Friday, 18 March 2011

Visit to 127 Deptford High Street, Formerly Nolans Clothes Shop.

I had the pleasure to meet Terry the proprieter of the shop which was once called Nolans's. Terry has been present in Deptford for many years and it was great to talk to him about the people and places he remembers on the High St. We started discussing the story, listed below, regarding the tunnel beneath his shop. He kindly agreed to let me go down into the cellar and view the tunnel entrance. I was surprised when Terry lifted a hatch by the till in the shop, which was the cellar entrance! It was a bit of a squeeze but we both got down there and I took the following photos.

The cellar entrance
Entrance to the tunnel now bricked up

Any ideas what these curious hinge type fixings were for??

Shop Owner  "Terry" My thanks to him for allowing me to disturb his business and go exploring.
Reproduced original posting for infomation.
In the early part of 1978 a survey was carried out at the request of Nolans Clothes Shop, No 127, by the proprietor Mrs Order. The purpose was to examine alleged tunnels under the shop which ran east to deptford Creek, or a Pub, or the place of Nelson's assignations with Lady Hamilton in Albury Street. A trap door at the front of the shop gives access to a series of cellars under the whole building, some of which were blocked and one which had a barreled roof and could be the begining of a tunnel leading directly under the street.It was described as being about 6ft high, with a stone rubble floor. There was a rectangular manhole leading to sewers beneath which were said to flood. The tunnel terminated in a brick wall at approximately the edge of the outside pavement. The bricks were of mixed stock and red bricks, with no obvious signs of great age, and were probably contempoary with the building which seemed from map and visual evidence to be c. 1844-50, contempoary with the adjacent Catholic church. It was noted  there was nothing on site on the 1844 tithe map but earlier maps 1800-33 may show buildings but were to small a scale to be confirmed with any certainty. There was a similar tunnel which had been blocked more recently and was said to lead from the indentical adjacent shop. It was discovered to have been blocked in by the owners of the shops across the street. The tunnel at No 127 seemed to be an extention of the cellars, and without pulling the wall down, there was no evidence of it going any further other than the edge of the pavement. If it did originally cross the street it would presumably join the cellars of the opposite shops. Does anyone know of underground tunnels in Deptford?

20 comments:

Deptford dame said...

Blimey, that's confusing. I always thought his name was Terry! Nice report thanks.

sascha.humphrey said...

I get my eggs from him and I have always called him Terry and he's never said anything to the contrary?

sascha.humphrey said...

I believe there is supposed to be a bricked up tunnel in the Dog and Bell!
But I'm not 100% sure if it's true!

andy said...

No! Forgive me His name is Terry...What am I thinking about..I apologise..Now altered doh!

shipwright's palace said...

These cellars look entirely regular for late eighteenth early nineteenth century london terrace housing. Similar cellars, though much earlier, exist in Albury Street and the Master Shipwright's House leading to rumours of tunnels to the Creek, river etc. However, its more likely that the barrel vaulted cellars that stop at the pavement edge and temptingly look like bricked up tunnels were in fact used as coal holes or other storage. The barrel vaulting is a structural necessity whether building for a tunnel or a small cellar. Sorry guys!

andy said...

Hi Shipwrights Thanks for your comment...

Being a bricklayer I would agree that the barrel vault is there to support the pavement/roadway but also possibly to give access to a larger space/cellar/Tunnel? I see little point in building a vaulted space 4'x4' just to support the pavement. Why not just leave it solid earth? I could see no evidence of a coal hole or coal shoot, or coal dust staining and the brickwork is still original to the period i.e. lime based mortar and original 2.5" yellow/buff stock bricks. Terry also said he found evidence of either "Wall paper or painted wall decoration on some of the walls possibly indicating it was used for more than just storage. My father's sister related this story to us when they lived at 29 Albury Street ....

"We use to hear talk about a tunnel in that area that my Father and his brother found and once explored, but if we were in earshot of the grown ups talking about this tunnel the conversation abruptly ended. It wasn't until much later in life that my Aunt told us about the escapade of theirs. On entering the said tunnel ,which was situated on the east wall I believe, it headed in the direction of Deptford Creek. So far into the tunnel they came across an old flintlock musket and various items of long ago. Heading further in along the ground started to get wet and eventually they hit a water line and could not go any further. I have always wondered what happened to the musket! The tunnel must still be there to this very day".

All we need is permission from Terry for me to go down with a hammer and chisel and start expolring a bit more. Just cut one brick out and shine a torch. I will see if he's up for it.

shipwright's palace said...

andy,
I suggest the barrel vault is built not so much to support the pavement alone, but to provide the house with this extra space. otherwise yes, I'd agree no need to barrel vault to support the pavement, there are many examples of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian basement areas which extend under the pavement.
and these usually give access to storage vaults originally for coal under the pavement.
In London many of the larger Georgian terrace houses had separate front access to the basement to allow for coal, waste and service matters to be dealt with separately from the main entrance to the house. In smaller houses basement access would be to the coal cellars which were to be found under the pavements.Lets say there was room for a small front garden now occupied by the shop front. there may well have been a below ground level division between the house giving access to the basement below the pavement. Something of value such as fuel may have been stored there and this could also explain the hinges in the wall. ???

andy said...

A good argument Shipwright. I suppose, as I suggested, asking Terry for further exploration may throw some more light if your excuse the pun?

andy said...

Another observation.
Ive been a bricklayer for some 40yrs now and if I had to lay this cellar out I would have firstly laid out the brickwork and made sure the end wall was tied in (bonded) to the two side walls especially if there is earth the other side which would be quite weighty if wet. When looking at the two corner edges it does seem to me that the end wall is a blanking wall and not a part of a bonded brickwork structure..in essance a "blanking wall" filled in after the vaulted structure had been built. If you look closely at the end wall you can see where some bricks have been randomly bedded into plalce to infill the top part of the arch. I agree some one may of carried out repairs long ago but to me and my experience this is a structure which was put into to place after the main vaulted ached space was completed. Grateful for any comments

Anonymous said...

Are you sure Terry is the owner? I thought it was part of the Yvonne Order empire...?

Sue said...

Re underground tunnels, go and have a word with Ralph at High Street Flowers and Wha-is-name at the Bent Tin Shop...they'll give you plenty underground tunnels...!

andy said...

Thanks Sue I will do that

Andy

andy said...

Anon

No Im not sure...In the absence of asking him I just assumed he was..My apologies if I was mistaken

Dave W. said...

Anybody know about the railway line which ran down the centre of Grove Steet in Deptford before the war ?
Where did it go to / from ?
Thanks

Dave W.

Chris S said...

Some time ago I spoke to an elderly chap who used to attend the Congregational Church which was almost opposite, on the site of what is now the Jobcentre, and he told me he used to play down in the crypt of the church which extended under the High Street. Could this be in any way connected with the cellars that were found at Nolans?

andy said...

You may have a point Chris...I will check the maps. Ive yet to go back to Terry's and ask if I can take a brick out in the blanking wall to see if it goes any further...but it would be great if the crypt and the tunnel were connected?

Chris S said...

In answer to Dave's request about the trains in Grove Street Jess Steele's book Turning the Tide has a picture of one of the trains in Grove Street. They ran from the Foreign Cattle Market to link with the Deptford Wharf branch which I believe linked up with the Bricklayers Arms tracks.

mail said...

I remember the Grove street railway very well.From late '37 to '40 we lived in Windmill Lane,and lots of my relations lived close to the line.
One of my uncles was a railwayman on this section.Contrary to old maps,and 1938 A-Z this line ran accross both W.Lane and Sayes St,cutting the latter into two parts.
Windmill Lane had level crossing gates.I believe this was part of the LB&SC railway.

joyce said...

Dave, yes I remember the old train lines that used to run through Grove Street, I don't know where they came from but I know there was a depot at the end of the road where they finished up. They could have had something to do with the canal. My uncle used to work on them and I remember olooking out the window and waving to him when he went by. I must have been about 4 or 5 then.

DAVID NORRIS said...

BACK IN THE 60'S A GANG OF US FROM THE CROSSFIELD ESTATE ON CHURCH STREET WENT EXPLORING LIKE YOUNG KIDS DO.WE WERE ON THE STEPS OF ST.PAULS CHURCH,WHEN ONE OF US NOTICED A LOOSE SLAB OF CONCRETE ON THE RIGHT SIDE GOING UP THE STAIRS.WE MANAGED TO SLIDE IT ACROSS ENOUGH FOR US TO GAIN ENTRY,WE WRE ALL JANKING IT. IT LEAD TO THE CRYPT,AT THAT STAGE IT HAD NOT BEEN REFURBISHED. THE PLACE WAS FULL OF COFFINS. WE FOUND TUNNELS BUT WERE TOO SCARED TO VENTURE. THET HAVE ALL BEEN BRICKED UP NOW, BUT NOW KNOW FOR A FEW NUMBER OF YEARS THAT THOSE TUNNELS LEAD AS FAR AWAY AS THE SUSSEX COAST AND ALSO MAKE UP AS PART OF THE CHISLEHURST CAVES.MY NAME IS DAVID NORRIS (MOLE).