Underground Manchester


From the December 1997 edition of the Forum, the newspaper of the Manchester Civic Society

An introduction to Jayne and Marilyn - how could anyone refuse? Alas they were two Crossley engines deep, very deep in the bowels of Manchester, named after Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. Those of us who signed up after the Civic Society AGM for the tour of the BT tunnels quickly learned there is a whole undiscovered world beneath our feet.

Entering "somewhere in Piccadilly", we descended via four flights of stairs then a lift to the centre of the Earth. The tunnels were built in 1955 by Polish immigrants, chosen because they couldn't speak English, as a communication centre in case an atomic bomb was dropped.

Six switchboards were manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and only became redundant in the 1970s. They still remain, looking as if the staff have just popped out for a cup of tea. The whole complex has an eerie feel about it and is rumoured to he haunted by one of the Polish workers who fell to his death down one of the lift shafts. The accommodation block and canteen is very much "Civil Service circa late 1960s".

The tunnels have their own water supply from a 2000 foot artesian well which also supplies Boddington's brewery!

Some of the cables the tunnels now house were made in the 1950s and 1960s by companies in Trafford Park, long since gone. The power plant could be run for four to five weeks by batteries, in case of mains failure, courtesy of Jayne and Marilyn.

These very interesting tunnels came off the official secrecy list in 1968 but are still unofficially secret - will the Twentieth Century Society be coming to look at them in the future, as we visit Victorian buildings now?

What other parts of underground Manchester can readers tell us about?

Peggy Kynaston
Manchester Civic Society

If anyone reading this has any more information on the underground installations in Manchester please email me at: atomic@cybertrn.demon.co.uk

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Copyright 2000 Manchester Civic Society
Last updated 24 January 2000