Some Interesting Stuff about Greenwich Park’s Tunnels

I can’t for the life of me remember where this image came from, I found it while I was looking for a photo of the various entrances to the Greenwich Park tunnels near the Conduit House in the west of the park, which of course I can’t find, but hey, it’s probably more interesting anyway.

Michael was digging around old Freedom of Information requests and found a couple of fascinating reports that he’s sent me.

The first is a general overview of the tunnels in the park which gives good basic information. I don’t think it’s got anything we haven’t talked about many times before but it’s always good to read new documents about things such as this.

The second I found much more interesting, as it’s a 2009 report by a Nottinghamshire-based company (why they didn’t use local experts I don’t know…) who went down to check out the tunnels – presumably as part of the Olympic preparations to check they weren’t going to cave in. I guess it would have been useful and quelled a bit of hysteria if they’d made the fact they were doing it public at the time but hey, it’s an interesting enough read now.

I’m assuming that the photographic reproduction in the original report is a bit better quality than the copy but even with the horrid, grainy pixellated images we have it’s a fascinating read. I love the skeleton of an abandoned wheelbarrow that lies propped up in a corner.

I’ll not reinvent the wheel(barrow) here – you can read it for yourselves – but it seems to be a pretty thorough report, with a view to wildlife too (no bats, sadly…) and a fascinating read. I love the stuff about the Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Air Raid Shelter.

Something the report does throw up is that the tunnels are pretty sound, which puts me in mind of something that keeps coming to me as a possible money-making wheeze for Royal Parks. Why not do ‘potholing’ expeditions of the tunnels for small groups, led by cavers? I know I’d be straight down there – and I’m sure lots of other people would sign up for a guided tour of the tunnels. After all, the generations before us all clambered about down there. I feel left out.

I guess there are a gazillion H&S forms to fill out and risk assessment stuff a-gogo but hell – so must there be for the sky walk thing over the O2 and that’s going great guns, They must be coining it. I know which I’d rather do.

Michael has put in an FOI request of his own, to see the rest of the report and I’m going to reproduce the request here as I think it’s a great example of how one should be done. Officials must get so many aggressive ‘You’ve clearly got something to hide, you’re a bad person, show me all the documents that prove that my suggestion isn’t true’ requests that a polite, specific ask must be a blessed relief. I know that if I were a weary public servant and got Michael’s request I’d be more inclined to push it to the top of the pile.

I’ll let you know when he gets that speedy reply…


the attachments to this post:

conduits 1695
conduits 1695


6 Comments to “Some Interesting Stuff about Greenwich Park’s Tunnels”

  1. Julian says:

    The map that you have reproduced is a printed 1816 copy of Samuel Travers’ detailed survey of the Royal Manor of Greenwich 1695-7. The printed copy is the frontispiece to ‘Kimbell’s Charities of Greenwich, 1816 which contains a transcript of Samuel Travers report on the Manor. The original is in the National Archives and has more detail than the 1816 copy. The Nat. Archives also have a very detailed manuscript report, 1780 (I think) on the conduit system which details the complete system as reconstructed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. It records, for example, the lead pipe that took water from the eastern conduits into the Queen Elizabeth Conduit, now part of the ‘Chantry’ in Park Vista. This building was a highly secure reservoir for the Tudor palace.

    The Arundell Conduit took water from the Primrose Hill area (roughly site of Vanbrugh Castle) to ‘Old Court’ the ancient courthouse and guesthouse of the Abbey of St. Peter’s Ghent. This building, constructed in the early medieval period seems to have been demolished in the 1690s. Henry VIII refurbished it in 1518 as a home for Ann Boleyn before their marriage. A convenient few steps away from Greenwich Palace. Sadly, no trace of or images of ‘Old Court’ survive.

    There were other conduits further east: one served the ancient manor house of Eastcombe which stood more or less at the bottom of Westcombe Hill.

    There was, I believe, a large air raid shelter under the allotments in Greenwich Park. Its outline still shows up on aerial photos. Many decades ago I spotted it on an aerial view and decided that it was a medieval hall house until Robert Price, a shopkeeper in Trafalgar Road and local historian told me that he remembered the air raid shelter. He saved me a lot of embarrassment as I was about to ‘go public’ with my barmy theory.

    I may have a digital copy of the 1780 Admiralty report on the conduits. If I can find it I will email it to you. It takes some deciphering but is well worth it.

  2. Mr Eee says:

    I assume that you can’t insist on using local companies due to European tendering rules on governmental contracts. I’d also assume that the Nottingham company had lots of experience from evaluating mines etc so it seems to make sense to me….

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  4. Nathan says:

    Very interesting Phantom!
    I’m with you – wouldn’t it be fantastic to be able to be able to tour these along with Jack Cade’s Cavern?

  5. Dominic says:

    We have a full transcript of the 1780 Admiralty Survey here:

    http://www.subg.org.uk/2012/07/31/the-1780-admiralty-conduit-survey-full-transcript/

    Plus a lot more… sorry to barge in Phantom…

    Regards, Dominic

  6. Blimey – fascinating stuff, Dominic…