St Edwards Secret Tunnel
St Edwards church in the town of Leek which is located in the Staffordshire Moorlands is surrounded by myths and legends, there can be found strange pillars in its graveyard that may be phallic ferility shafts from an older era. The road and area leading up to the church is named Foxlowe which points to the fact that the church may have been built upon an ancient burial mound.
In the past a phenomena known as a double sunset could be seen from the churchyard of St Edwards which was caused by the sun setting below the hill known as the Cloud and then reappearing, however these days the trees growing in the churchyard now obscure this phenomena. Another legend concerning this church is that the offset clock which can be seen in the church tower conceals a hole caused by Oliver Cromwell’s canon called the Roaring Meg, which was fired from Gun Hill.
The latest secret that has been revealed concerning this church came about when a new central heating system was being installed, Brian Hartley, the church’s Fabrics Officer was removing ashes and debris from the floor of the boiler room which is deep below ground beneath the Vestry when he discovered a hole which had been filled with debris.
This is the hole which Brian Hartley discovered and which leads to a tunnel which can be accessed by a pair of ladders and which leads upwards.
I was fortunate in that Brian gave me a guided tour of the tunnel, firstly we had to lower a set of ladders into the hole, then I passed him a set of telescopic ladders, along with an extension lead, an inspection lamp and some torches. After we had descended into what I will refer to as a sump, we then extended the telescopic ladders and ascended into the tunnel itself taking along the inspection lamp and torches.
Looking up from the hole/sump before ascending the ladders and entering the tunnel.
A Dr Cleverdon who is a local historian was called in to investigate the tunnel and dated it to the eighteenth century when the burial vaults were still being used. However over time the access to the tunnel must have got filled in and forgotten about, there would have been an external entrance but the altar now blocks this access to the tunnel.
This photograph is looking back down the tunnel which we have just climbed up. The top of the ladders can just be seen along with steps carved into the floor of the tunnel.
Over the years the church has been extended and the place that the tunnel ends is circular like a well, the access would have been through the circular ceiling which as I previously stated would have exited outside in the churchyard. However now the church has been extended the tunnel exit is beneath the altar in the church and it appears to be covered by stone slabs, it does make one wonder whether this was some sort of escape route out of the church however this is purely speculation.
This is another view of the tunnel which is closer to the circular room beneath the altar.
The engraved stonework which can be found near to where the tunnel finishes.
After talking with Brian he speculates that there may be another set of stairs which may not have been discovered yet because if you look at the ceiling where the tunnel terminates it appears as if you are viewing the underneath of a set of stairs as the following photograph reveals.
Is this the underneath of a yet undiscovered set of stone stairs?
It has been speculated that the tunnel extends further from where it has been bricked up, and when Brian and myself returned to the place where we had first descended and which I had coined the sump, he showed me an area which he believes may be hollow and contain further secrets. The brick work suggests it may have been used to block an area as it does seem to lean in and appears to conceal something, unfortunately Brian hasn’t been given permission to explore his theory and so this area remains off limits to any further investigation for the moment.
To the left of this photograph is what Brian believes is an area which may be hollow and could possibly reveal a grave of some importance. At the bottom of the photograph the top of a pipe can be seen which leads into a stone trough, its purpose still remains a mystery as it doesn’t appear to have been designed for the purpose of carrying water.
To the right of this photograph is the area which may be hollow and conceal further secrets which are still awaiting further discovery. It is known that a wooden church would have stood on this site back in the twelfth century so it does beg the question as to how many more secrets are waiting to be discovered at this location. I shall be updating this page and keeping in touch with Brian Hartley in the hope that there will be more news to share in the future.