Discover a hidden world underneath the streets of Nottingham. This underground world is part of a hidden maze of more than 500 sandstone caves lurking below Nottingham, dating back to the middle ages. The family attraction that is now the City Of Caves is possible thanks to the soft Sherwood Sandstone beneath Nottingham that allowed hand-carved cellars to be excavated and used as store rooms, factories, pub cellars, dwellings and even air raid shelters. Archaeologists are still investigating the maze of tunnels to see where they lead and what more there is to find.
Enjoy a tour of the caves to learn about the historical events that took place in this fascinating subterranean world, and the social history associated with them.
This journey back in time begins with a descent into the shadowy, dank Brythonic and Anglo-Saxon tunnels, leading to original medieval wells and cesspits. There's a lot to do once you descend. Visit the only medieval underground tannery in the country and see how the caves were used for leather production in this unique setting. Explore the remnants of the Drury Hill slums from the Victorian era and quickly appreciate how much conditions have improved since then. Seek refuge in the Anderson air raid shelter, just as thousands did in World War II, to experience what many people had to cope with in the not so distant past.
A murky past
The city of Nottingham has more man-made caves than anywhere else in Britain, and the cave network has Ancient Monument Protection. The area was originally known as Tiggua Cobaucc, meaning ‘Place of Caves', and the first reference to it was in ‘The Life Of King Alfred,' by Welsh monk and historian, Asser, the Bishop of Sherborne, who visited Nottingham around 900 AD. These ancient caves were likely used for housing as early as the 11th century, and cave dwellers were still recorded in the 17th century. Many were inhabited until 1845, when the St. Mary's Enclosure Act banned the rental of cellars and caves as homes for the poor, though the practice doubtless continued.
Discoveries in the darkness
The City of Caves attraction is a must-see during your stay in Nottingham, for young and old. Children, while wary of the spooky dark and wet environment of the caves, will be enthralled by the dismal past displayed beneath the feet of ordinary Nottingham residents. Adults, meanwhile, will be mesmerized by the ingenuity of those who made their homes and businesses in these dwellings below the ground.