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Radar searches fail to find town tunnel evidence

Myths surrounding claims of secret tunnels under the centre of Newark appear to have been dispelled.

A review of ground-penetrating radar surveys at town centre locations appear to show the tunnels do not exist.

Lottery money was behind a project to test the tunnels theory, which was supported by oral histories and eyewitness accounts from people who remembered seeing or even entering them.

Kevin Winter, from the Newark Town Centre Hidden Heritage Group, who worked on the project, said although it was not definitive because a final report had not yet been received from the experts, the indication is that there are no tunnels.

“Supposing the final report backs up this initial finding, I believe this fully dispels the myths,” he said.

“It is a shame. People have loved to believe there were tunnels under Newark.”

The ground-penetrating radar search was carried out at depths of up to eight metres and appeared to show some features that could be tunnels, but are now thought to be extensive cellars.

Mr Winter said the best explanation of the eyewitness accounts was that people had seen cellars that encroached under pavements and had been inter-connected before being separated again.

“The suggestion of Civil War tunnels has never quite rung true,” said Mr Winter.

“My thoughts all along were that these were connected cellars rather than tunnels and they date to the coaching era when Newark had to cater for all of those passengers and extended cellars were needed to store food and drink.”

'Why build tunnels under Newark?'

Experts surveyed areas of the Market Place, Church Street, Appletongate from Mount Lane to the war memorial, Cartergate from Baldertongate to The Arcade, and Bargate.

The castle grounds were surveyed some time ago and Severn Trent did Castlegate as part of the preparations for their £60m waste and water system renewal scheme, which is currently under way.

The myths were based upon the need to enable safe movement away from the Parliamentarian bombardment when they laid siege to Royalist Newark three times during the English Civil Wars.

It had been suggested tunnels ran from the castle to the Market Place, or from the Governor’s House in the Market Place.

It was also claimed tunnels could link Chauntry House or The Friary to the parish church.

The locations for the surveys were determined on probability and likelihood, as well as testimonies.

“My question has always been why - why build tunnels under Newark?” Mr Winter said.

“I am not sure what they would have done with them and, looking at the geology of the area, they would have been very difficult to construct.

“Nottingham is riddled with tunnels but that is because the sandstone was much easier to get through.

“Here, it is much more clay-based and we’re right by the river.”

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