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nottingham Caves of Not t ingham iversity

Un log y/The

Peak Arc haeo

: Trent &


Nottingham underground Nottingham underground How a subterranean city was used through the ages IMAG

Nottingham’s artificial caves chart the changing fortunes of an evolving city. David Str ange-Walker and Julia Clarke of Trent & Peak Archaeology take us into the earth.

Nottingham was once famous for its caves. In AD 893 the Welsh monk Asser, writing in his Life of Alfred, described how in 868 ‘the army of the pagans leaving Northumberland invaded but also football, cigarettes, lace, and riotous stag nights. Yet despite such competing claims to fame, the 500 or so hand-carved caves beneath the city remain, perhaps, its most exceptional feature. Trent & Peak Archaeology recently completed a laser survey of this subterranean city.

Mercia and came to Nottingham, which is called in the British tongue Tigguocobauc, which means “the house of caves”, and they wintered there the same year.’ Eventually the city became one of the five burghs of the Danelaw, and the Danes held the city until 918, when King Edward the Elder captured the town. Since then, Nottingham’s caves have been gradually eclipsed in the popular mindset, not just by castles, sheriffs, and outlaws,

The caves are cut into an outcrop of very soft sandstone that can easily be carved away. Unlike many examples, the Nottingham Castle Sandstone has few joints and fractures, while the bedding planes are widely spaced and there is little lamination. This gives it a structural integrity that ensures well-designed caves are unlikely to collapse, even when heavy buildings are constructed directly above. Early settlers


current archaeology | ovember 2011 |

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