Growing up in Deal we all heard the stories about smugglers tunnels that stretch from this street to that. Just about everybody knows someone who claims to have been in one as a child. The only problem is most of these people seem to have one thing in common, collective amnesia about exactly where these tunnels are located.
I keep coming up to the same old story time and time again, oh there was a tunnel there but so and so the builder filled it up with concrete. Oh, there was a tunnel there but, it's so expensive to have the archeologists around they just filled it in on the quiet. It does make you wonder if local builders to blame for a lack of proof that smuggler's tunnels exist. Well, let me say this. If you are a builder who has denied this town the truth of its awesome history then you should probably be a little ashamed of yourself. The truth of the matter needs to be investigated and every time you fill in a tunnel you are denying future generations of this town the truth about its history in the name of saving a few quid.
I heard of another one this last week that had been discreetly covered up and backfilled with concrete and to be honest, it really frustrates me. I try to put myself in the position of the builders and I get it, it slows the work and there is uncertainty over the costs and implications of reporting such a feature are. Of which if I am being honest I do not know that myself (I will endeavor to find out). The thing is this, I have been given names of builders who have done this, I know some of them and they are great guys, no doubt about it. And no, I am absolutely not interested in any witch hunt or naming and shaming, I am not in the business of destroying people's reputations and businesses based on rumors.
So what am I interested in then...
Well, what I am interested in, is building a trusting relationship with local builders, identifying what the correct procedure is for reporting a feature, and then using the resources of The History Project to make this procedure as quick and seamless for the builders as possible so we can get these features reported and cataloged before they are blocked up or filled in. I made a call to the Dover Museum's curator a great man that goes by the name of Jon Iveson. Jon had made a brief call to the conservation officer to get some guidance and explained to me that blocking these features up or filling them in is illegal and can accrue a massive fine for the builders who do it. He went on to say that preserving these features by covering them over with a man-hole could be a solution. This would obviously give easy access for any further visits that might need to take place. Whilst he made clear that I would have to meet and have a more detailed discussion with the conservation officer to find the in and outs, he did say that reporting such a feature might not have as many implications as these builders are presuming.
Jon is a busy man who kindly responded quickly to a text I sent him within an hour or so, so I thanked him for his time. As I sat there contemplating my next move I had a realisation that I was in need of both a strong cup of tea and a meeting with the conservation officer. I intend to find out precisely what the builders need to do and then try my best to see if THP can make this process smoother. Anything to stop these rare and precious local features from being carelessly, crudely, and insensitively filled up with concrete, hardcore, or household waste from the job.
Right now, local 'authors' who have visited a limited number of local homes and who have done "extensive research" (or at least paid others to do it for them), have deducted that smuggler's tunnels are a myth and as such have written it so. This is now being believed as fact (which it may or may not be). One can not entirely blame these people, they have after all never seen a tunnel during their investigation, they simply can not tell about tunnels they did not see. However to conclude that tunnels are a myth just because they were not able to find one is a little presumptive in my opinion.
This is why The History Project, decided to step in and deliver a smuggling architectural investigation. It is all about finding and recording smuggling architectural features so we can gain a full picture surrounding the truth or myths of our smuggling history, including the tunnels that are rumored to be in this area.
Take a look at this video it tells you all about it
We teamed up with one of Deal's greatest and 'most loved' historians, Stuart Smith, and was joined by Sharon Powell (historian), and Tony Flashman (historian and photographer) with the idea of delivering one of the most extensive multi-location smuggling architectural investigations in Deal's history and finally put the myth about tunnels to bed either way whilst simultaneously collecting as much data on smuggling architectural features as we go.
We made a great start initially, but then along came COVID and we have had to stop but hope to continue following the ease of lockdown restrictions. If you would like to help us out in this sort of regard you can donate here.
We made some cool discoveries including finding a hidden wall under a bricked-up archway in the cellar of a local pub!!! I have put the video to this below.
We still have a long way to go but that is part of the fun!! and with the launch of our new hub soon with the ability to attract volunteers, we should be able to make great headway. Click here to find out more about volunteering with us. With the help of a group of active volunteers helping us with our ongoing project work, we are hopeful to get great work done.
I am looking forward to continuing this investigation and can not wait to get back in cellars and old buildings searching for more clues!! and please if your a local builder with a story to tell get in touch.
Until next time,
Walkabout Pete signing out