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Issue 339 – Frome tunnels dig did not reveal anything new

THE Frome Tunnels Project recently spent two weekends on their latest project at the Willow Vale dig.

The group has been exploring the network of underground tunnels which lie under Frome.
Organisers of the project report on their latest dig, “We were joined by a great bunch of volunteers to help us work on the Willow Vale site. The weather was so good that we decided to focus all our efforts there, with only Pete up at the Lamb & Fountain, – trying to divert the water leaks in the lower cellars (which he did successfully!).
“In Willow Vale, we had two tasks: fill in the 8-foot deep inspection pit; and dig down in the small chamber/shaft to see if this is the 40ft shaft that we had been told about.
“After six hours work, the pit was refilled (having been open for two summers) and at the same time we widened and made safe the side entrance to the chamber and continued digging down.
“The story – or as it turned out, myth – we had hoped to verify was that this shaft had many steps or rungs and went down to a stone arch, through which one accessed a large tunnel that went under the river towards St John’s. Having gone down another metre, the team soon discovered that the lowest course of stonework is in fact resting on old clay, which had not been disturbed for many generations. We also searched for any capstones or trapdoors, but without success.
“So it seems that either this story isn’t true or that we are digging in the wrong place. We may never know, but some further work is planned now that the first dig is over.
“We plan organising a further weekend’s dig on the site if we can, and to excavate the lower floor of the derelict gazebo structure, to be sure we have not missed it in there, if it exists.
“This was a rather disappointing end to much work – but good to at least draw a conclusion on the work in the chamber – the purpose of which is still a slight mystery. One explanation is that the gazebo building is one floor taller than it looks and that in the past the hillside has been built up around it and in fact what we were excavating was the remains of a flying stone staircase to the first floor. This sort of feature in large country house gardens was not uncommon in the 1700s.
“Our sincere thanks to all those who volunteered – some of whom stayed throughout the day! Thanks go to; Jason Townsend, Steve Murtie, Annemarie Blake, Graham Blakey, Chris and Christian Warren, Paul Ridge, Mark Alden, Kevin Rodgers and Malcolm, and Richard Ackroyd.
“We will organise our next dig next month, which is likely to be focused on the Lamb & Fountain.”

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