Emma-Jane Austin and the Tunnel
In my novel Murder and Mr Rochester, the heroine Emma-Jane Austin discovers a shortcut in the centre of Nottingham called ‘The Tunnel’. It is one of the most interesting architectural features of Nottingham but is now largely hidden from view.
It is tends to just be called The Tunnel, or if one wishes to be more helpful and accurate, The Park Tunnel.
It echoes the days when Victorian engineers were blasting great big holes through anything that stood in the way of modern transport. This time it was in 1855 and was a way to gain a shortcut from Derby Road in the centre of Nottingham through to the new residential Park Estate owned by the fifth Duke of Newcastle.
It provides another fascinating revelation of the huge area of sandstone rock and caves that form the foundation of the centre of the city.
The Dukes of Newcastle were no strangers to this geological formation as their castle stood on the highest section of sandstone which was pockmarked with entrances to strange tunnels and caves beneath.
The job of designing the man-made tunnel and much of the new estate was given to the fifth Duke’s surveyor, Thomas Chambers Hine (1813-1899).
He also designed the layout of the roads and many of the magnificent houses, as well as having approval of other intended house plans in order to maintain the estate’s architectural integrity. Unfortunately the Tunnel was obsolete almost as soon as it was built. The gradient was slightly too difficult for horse-drawn carriages. Also other roads were built at around the same time that meant the Tunnel was no longer necessary.
But it remains an eccentric and hidden part of Nottingham’s history. And, despite electric lighting and an opening for natural light in the middle,
it can still be scary at night, as Emma-Jane Austin finds out in my murder mystery novel Murder and Mr Rochester. Not a place where you want to bump into strangers in the dark…