See here for small film clip showing the extent of the Wheatsheaf cellar and medieval drawbridge feature
The conclusions of the subterranean investigation yielded some fantastic insights with the ultimate find surfacing at the Wheatsheaf cellar.
The Wheatsheaf Inn today and in an old postcard
In any archaeological investigation one has to try to be completely neutral and base the conclusions of the investigations on factual evidence and what actually what was found and understood from it. This study did not aim to go and ‘find’ hidden subterranean entrances and tunnels underneath the town, it wanted to test the theory of whether or not there were any or trace evidence of them.
Surprisingly it was found that there is more evidence of tunnels, underground networks and features underneath the streets of Lower Broad Street than anywhere else in the town. Here there is a vast array of archaeological and documentary evidence of such elaborate cellars, especially underneath the Wheatsheaf. In the 17th – 18th centuries it was known as a slum area and in particular one lady (or not) called Mary Derby was frequently penalised publicly. She was found (in the court rolls) to have been a ‘vagabond, minstrel, pedlar, tinker, lewd and filthe of her tongue’
The Wheatsheaf Inn was built in the late 16th century and was built up against the Broad Gate (which is a 13th century gate house) which in turn is built over the town medieval town ditch and back onto a part of the town wall. On the left of the picture is a Georgian manifestation of a house with the Wheatsheaf on the right to the front of the eastern turret of the Broad Gate
An old drawing of the Wheatsheaf and the Broad Gate
Outside the eastern and western turrets of the Broad Gate today
Below are drawn plans as to what the Broad Gate may have looked like, with a side elevation (see the wooden drawbridge platform)
Below the HER record of Ludlow with its 360 listed buildings
Below Broad Gate and Wheatsheaf section
And then deep down in the Wheatsheaf deep dark depths…
The centerpiece of the medieval drawbridge below
Notice the stone steps leading into the sealed off drawbridge
As with any town landscape that has monastic or military buildings such as castles and abbeys there always seems to be myths and legends and folklore surrounding the possibility of secret hidden entrances and especially tunnels. Local people will often recall hearing about tunnels and passageways that link underground (sometimes seeing them)
I came across this perception with many of the townsfolk when I based my archaeological study that recalled many events of themselves and or family or people they knew who knew about them and had directly been in them. It is interesting how some facts can become embroiled with a little fantasy (we are humans after all) and then the notion of these hidden places becomes secret places and evolves. In the subterranean investigation I did find some entrances and even the 12 century medieval drawbridge but the reality was that in the investigation there was no obvious direct evidence of them linking with other networks. There has to be some question as to what the other entrances are if not subterranean, and how they were used in consideration of the built up urban landscape in town.
That is to say that there are not any hidden underground spaces, there may well be a significant underground network that is linked and has not yet been discovered. You have to keep an open mind. But the fact of the matter is in this investigation that only a small number where found of entranceways which in fact shows that there is a significant enough what is now a hidden landscape as the use of the town has changed. The archaeology when you go underground becomes extremely complicated in understanding what building phase occurred first and then was added to. Nearly every building cellar I investigated contained a matrix of contexts and truncating features with mixed up deposits….It’s enough to do your head in…
What was apparent in the investigation was that the landscape and the ground levels of Ludlow have become considerably altered so that what now today appears to be blocked off entrances that are half submerged like this example below, where in fact at one time functioning at a different level.
Therefore what we perceive as underground now was at one time was not, and it always amazes me just how much earth can be built up to changing levels that we see today. The subterranean landscape is there all you have to do is look….