Peeling back the layers of history

GETTING DOWN TO IT ... exploring old tunnels found under the Market Place 50 years ago.
GETTING DOWN TO IT ... exploring old tunnels found under the Market Place 50 years ago.

OH dear, this photograph really tweaks my claustrophobia.

But it dovetails with the recent topic of what excavation of parts of the Market Place in Shields may turn up.

Given the layers of history that we know lie beneath the town centre, redevelopment is at least an excuse to peel a few of them back and see what has lain concealed.

In the case of the Market, I half-joked that it might be some of the strange tunnels that are supposed to run under it.

They’re not entirely a myth.

This picture dates from just over 50 years ago, when the 1960s phase of the redevelopment of the Market was taking place that would produce, among other buildings, Wouldhave House, only lately demolished.

Here, a workman explores one of the tunnels that was found during the demolition of the old Market Hotel, on the west side of the square, on the corner of Dean Street.

I don’t remember that they ever actually identified what they had been or how old they were.

Given their location, I’ve sometimes wondered if they may have had something to do with the old chemical/glass works that originally occupied the river frontage beyond the Market.

But then we live in a place riddled with such mysteries.

Reader Tom Jarvis read my piece, and was reminded of the old tunnels that he recalled being in the embankment behind the Odeon Cinema, in Queen Street.

“My friends and I often played in them as kids when we came out of the Saturday morning movies, but had no idea why they were there or what they were for.

“I guess you’d have to dig the current car park up to find them.

“I’ll be visiting Shields this coming spring 
so maybe I’ll bring a pick and shovel along!” he joked.