Uncovering Nottingham’s hidden medieval sandstone caves

The very latest laser technology combined with old fashioned pedal power is being used to provide a unique insight into the layout of Nottingham’s sandstone caves — where the city’s renowned medieval ale was brewed and, where legend has it, the country’s most famous outlaw Robin Hood was imprisoned.

The Nottingham Caves Survey, being carried out by archaeologists from Trent & Peak Archaeology at The University of Nottingham, has already produced extraordinary, three dimensional, fly through, colour animation of caves that have been hidden from view for centuries.

Below the grounds of Nottingham Castle and across the city there is a labyrinth of medieval tunnels, dungeons, maltings and cellars — people even carved primitive living quarters out of Nottingham’s sandstone cliffs.

The man-made caves, cut into the strata of rock known as Sherwood Sandstone, are being recorded by laser scanners, which produce up to 500,000 survey points a second, enabling us to see these excavations as never before.

Archaeologists already know of around 450 caves — some are well documented and currently scheduled monuments of local and national importance. With funding of £250,000 from the Greater Nottingham Partnership, emda, English Heritage, The University of Nottingham and Nottingham City Council it is hoped that over the next two and a half years these and many more can be recorded and mapped.

Dr David Walker, of Trent & Peak Archaeology, said: “This remarkable new technology will create a full measured record of the caves in three dimensions. This gives us two really important things ? a highly detailed archaeological record of the historic caves, and a new way for people to view caves they may never have seen before. For the first time visitors will be able to explore Nottingham’s unique caves with a laptop or smartphone over the web. However, there have to be many more caves that we don’t even know about and we want to hear from anyone who might have a sandstone tunnel at the back of their house, office or garden.”

The survey will build on the work of the British Geological Survey carried out in the 1980s.

Archaeologists are using environmentally-friendly trailer-pulling bicycles to get themselves and their research equipment about the city. And if you have a cave hidden away in your back garden or at the back of your office block or home they will be more than happy to pop by.

Although many caves and tunnels are blocked up some are still accessible to tourists or used as pub cellars. The project goals are to assess the archaeological importance of Nottingham’s caves, to present the caves in a new and exciting way and to preserve Nottingham’s unique and fragile resource for future generations.

You can read and see more about the Nottingham Caves Survey at: http://www.nottinghamcavessurvey.org.uk/index.htm

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK’s Top 10 and the World’s Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain’s “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation ? School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

More information is available from Dr David Walker on +44 (0)115 9514 828, [email protected] or Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Manager, on +44 (0)115 951 5751, [email protected]

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