This tunnel network underneath Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester Institude of Biotechnology and the School of Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Engineering predates the university. It is notable for its layout—not a straight line from ‘A’ to ‘B’, but sprawling to connect the whole area. With four shafts, its layout was mapped and modelled extensively around 1969, and the detailed plans can be found on the John Rylands University Library Image Collections. Photographs from the survey (as marked as plates on the plans) can be seen on the UMIST Campus History site.
A notable discovery made in January 1968 was an extensive network of flooded tunnels 10 feet below the surface of the sandstone bedrock. A plan of the tunnels could only be prepared after they were first pumped clear of water to permit access for surveying—over 1000 feet of tunnel and 7 access shafts were recorded. Speculation at the time was that the underground workings provided water storage for the print works which occupied the site from the 1830’s. Internal views of the tunnels prior to grouting show localised brick vaulting and iron strutting. This is suggestive of a late-eighteenth or nineteenth century date—but really it is impossible to be certain and the workings may be earlier.