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.

In the circular room where the tunnel terminates can be found a date of 1720 etched in the stonework along with the names W. Birch, H. Hillier and J. Morris below this date.

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.

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5 Responses to “St Edwards Secret Tunnel”

  1. hello this is a great find could you please send me more info on this as my paranormal team would like to view this and see if we could bring more to light on this. This would be great to investegate if this is still possible please.

    i look forward to hearing from you

  2. Thanks for this, it’s really fascinating and the photos are brilliant. I came to this page by chance having come to your site via an unrelated google search. However, the report of the remains of a tunnel at St Edward’s reminded me of something I’d read elsewhere about Dieulacres Abbey, which you also cover in your blog.

    There are apparently stories that there was once a tunnel or at least pathway connecting Dieulacres and St Edward’s. You probably already know about this but in case you don’t, I’ve added a couple of links below to where this is mentioned.Your visit to the tunnel shows that there really is something there, though as you say it’s hard to know how far the tunnel extends.

    THE FOLLOWING EXTRACT TAKEN FROM:
    http://dieulacresabbey.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/introduction.html
    “As to that other fabled link between the town of Leek and the great abbey beyond the Churnet – a “secret passage” or subterranean tunnel connecting Dieulacres with St. Edward’s church – the impracticality and futility of such an enterprise are discussed in a later chapter. However if by “passage” we mean nothing more than is indicated by the latin word passagium, namely a road or right of way, and if by “secret” we mean nothing more than private, then indeed there was such. Old maps of Leek show a pathway leading from the back of St. Edward’s church, over Brow Hill, and down to what is now the junction of Park Road and Abbey Green Road a much more direct route from the town to the abbey and vice-versa than via Mill Street and Macclesfield Road. The pathway may still be followed from Church Lane to Abbey Green Road where, at Broad’s Bridge, the medieval traveller would have caught his first glimpse of the abbey of Our Lady of Dieulacres.”

    THE FOLLOWING EXTRACT FROM THIS SITE:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/stoke/hi/people_and_places/newsid_9047000/9047470.stm
    “A similar tale exists about passages that lie under Leek – either under the market place or under the parish church – one of which leads off in the direction of Dieulacres Abbey, the remains of which lie some distance from the town.
    The existence of a tunnel and a ghostly event that I relate during one of my ghost walks is linked to Dieulacres, which is only a short distance away from the imposing church of St Edwards in the town.”

    • Hi Brit, Thanks for taking the time to send me this information as I’m sure that people as well as myself will find it of interest. As for a tunnel running from the Abbey to St Edwards, I myself don’t believe that one exists, although having said that there exists the possibility that the rear of the Hermits cave close to the remains of the abbey may have been filled in on purpose as river gravel and stones can be found at the far end of it, these should not be found there. The possibility exists that either something was buried of value there (hidden during the reformation of the monasteries?) or that the cave dips down and forms into a tunnel underneath all the stones and material at the end of the cave. Alternatively the theory that a tunnel exists may have arisen from the fact that there is a strong Ley line or Dragon line that runs through this location and over the years confusion has come about because of this.
      Regards Gary

  3. I have been told many times by my next door neighbour that a large tunnel runs under my house. She has seen it herself many years ago. This is in Higher Woodcroft.

  4. […] Address: ST13 6AB  / Access & contacts:  ?  / Opening times:     This is an ‘open’ church Click here for official website Relevant statutory websites:         ?         [e.g. English Heritage website etc (ones which knowledgeable church-crawlers will find the most useful) / OR ‘home’ websites, e.g. ‘Church Near You’ websites]  :  British Listed Buildings entry Other links:       ?        [e.g. Wikipedia entry if there is one] Enthusiasts’ webpages relating to this church:         ?    St Edward’s Underground Tunnels […]

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