This story has been revived for us by Volunteer Alan Crooks who was, in turn, reminded of it on the recent SALOG visit to Old Sarum.
These are notes taken after reading a Salisbury Journal article by Austin Underwood, dated October 13 1988.
This blog is written on the 60th anniversary of the rediscovery of the tunnel (November 1957) by Austin Underwood and others.
The tunnel was originally discovered in 1795, running from the outer bailey into the countryside on the north side of the site. Severe weather had caused a collapse near the sealed up entrance. Although the local farmer tried to discourage visitors, it became well known for a while and was much visited but was again sealed and largely forgotten until the 1950s when a group of local historians discovered it again.
The description in the Salisbury Journal article of that 1957 find is almost as exciting as that of Carter’s breaking through into Tutankhamun’s tomb. The men crawled in to the tiny entrance to the tunnel, despite their wives’ pleas not to, and in a way that health and Safety simply would not allow today.
They discovered a tunnel which was 7 feet wide in places. It was full of two hundred year old grafitti – much the same as any you would see today, reports Austin Underwood. After walking in for 57 feet they could go no further. Further exploration or conservation was out of the question as funds are never available.
The purpose of the tunnel, and indeed, who built it, is not known. It could have been a sally port (allowing defenders to exit secretly and come up behind the attackers) or simply somewhere from which the castle’s inhabitants could retreat). It might have been built in Roman or Norman times, probably not earlier.