Hidden Manchester Map

Tunnels, rivers, mines & subterranean spaces of Hidden Manchester

> Underground Skittle Alley and tunnel 📍

This was the site of a tunnel which was at times used as an underground skittle alley, and by Goulburn’s food shop who used the tunnel space as a cheese store. It seems to have connected up to various parts of the old market place here.

Beneath New Cathedral Street, the home of Harvey Nichols, are cellars and passages dating back centuries - including one that served as a skittles gallery and shooting range, and later a cheese store.

There is a good write up about the area on Pubs of Manchester’s Bulls Head page.

Inside the (Bulls Head) down the cellar steps... seemed to be like a tunnel. I wandered further on. The walls were brick, the ceiling was semi-arched and I well remember passing some cheeses. I went on and on and became frightened. I turned back but could not find my way out again. I realised that the passages were not straight, but honey-combed, going in all directions like a maze.

Underground Manchester includes a number of accounts mentioning the tunnel. One account descibes there being two levels below the tunnel, and some sort of covered over well. Others mention access to the tunnel from the cellar of Mr Green at 2 Old Millgate in 1892, Smith Hill & Co Linen Drapers at 2a Old Millgate (also mentioning another tunnel under 57 Long Millgate) in 1899, Gouldburns at 2–14 Old Millgate, the Bulls Head Hotel and Walmsley’s Brothers Hosiers at 27 Market Street in 1929 and the corner of Market Street and Market Place during an excavation described in an Evening Chronicle Article in 1958:

A mystery, below-surface passageway was uncovered by demolition workers near the corner of Market Street and Market Place—centre of ‘old’ Manchester. I clambered through in the opening; peering into the half-light, breathing the cold, clammy atmosphere of yesteryear. Most of the brickwork in the 9 feet high, 5 feet wide tunnel was flaking with age. It stretched for about 25 yards, crossing below Market Place. There it had been bricked off. An official of the main firm handling the work said: ‘There is no sign of this passage on the plan from which we are working. The tunnel seems to run in the direction of the cathedral.’
Evening Chronicle, 1958

Before that a Manchester Guardian article from 1937 describes another accidental discovery of a tunnel linked with this one:

Excavating forty feet under Market Place, one of the oldest thoroughfares in Manchester, a workman has discovered an underground tunnel. On clearing the centuries-old accumulation of rubbish away, he found what is believed to be a secret passage used in the Cromwellian period. The passage actually leads to the old Skittle Alley now in the chesse cellars of Messrs. Gouldburns, Mr. E. Winterbottom, the workman told a reporter. I came accross it when laying drains in the yard of premises occupied by Redman’s, some yards away. I also found a well at the same time. Market Place is honeycombed with underground passages leading to the old Skittle Alley, then by the Cathedral to the river. During the days of the civil war there was a long underground tunnel leading from the Cathedral to Ordsall Lane, Salford.

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