’Secret Bath’ - the hidden world beneath the historic city

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The famous Royal Crescent which was built between 1767 and 1775.

Bath is a city famous for its rich history and while some of its most well known parts can be seen and enjoyed by all - like the Royal Crescent - not all of what the city has to offer can be seen so easily.

Here are some features of the ‘secret Bath’ beneath the city...

Hidden vaults

Trains stopped running at Green Park in 1966. Credit: Paul Gillis/ Bath Chronicle

Atmospheric vaults lie beneath the busy Green Park Station and retail space.

They house everything from offices to eclectic storage, but the most interesting space is the dark and untouched section, rarely entered by anyone.

The vaults can be found under Green Park Station Credit: Paul Gillis/ Bath Chronicle

First opening as Bath Queen Square railway station in 1870, trains stopped running at Green Park in 1966.

And parts of its underground world have lain untouched at least since then.

A WW2 hideout

Like many cities, Bath was prepared for a potential invasion during the Second World War.

The Bathampton Patrol had its hideout in one of the disused underground stone quarries on Hampton Rocks, according to Subterranea Britannica.

Stones and earth were used to hide the entrance to the operational base was first covered with a leaning a metal fence against the stone face and then debris to mimic a rock fall.

A hole just large enough to squeeze through was left, this was covered by a large stone that could be pushed outwards. Inside there were more stones that could be piled against this when it was occupied.

Once inside the entrance, there was a narrow opening to the right leading down a stone scree slope to a large cavern.

The entrance now appears to have collapsed a short distance in, preventing further access.

The targets for this patrol were the railway junction at Bathampton and Claverton Manor, if occupied by the Germans.

Secondary areas for possible sabotage were the engine sheds at Green Park station and Colerne airfield.

The ‘underground city’ built for nuclear war

An old, overgrown platform at Corsham Credit: ITV West Country

Between the towns of Corsham and Box in Wiltshire - less than 10 miles from Bath - stands the Ministry of Defence site, which was formerly known as Basil Hill Barracks.

Lying beneath it is a hidden city built to house thousands of people in the event of a nuclear war.

This secret hideaway - which spans 35 acres - was kept under wraps for decades.

It boasts 60 miles of roads, was blast-proof and completely self-sufficient, with the ability to house up to 4,000 people in complete isolation from the outside world for up to three months.

The facility was built as the UK's government war headquarters, which was essentially the base for the country's alternative seat of power, outside of London, during a nuclear war or conflict with the Soviet Union.

Commissioned in 1955 after approval by Prime Minister Anthony Eden, the complex actually became rather outdated shortly after it was built which was, in part, due to the fact that intercontinental ballistic missiles were able to target it.

New war plans were then formulated, but the complex continued to play a role, remaining in operation for 30 years.

Combe Down Mines

The Combe Down Mines supplied the city with stone for some of its most distinctive buildings – but left a legacy of precarious voids under that part of Bath.

The work of the mines and the success of that ambitious safety project are celebrated in the Museum of Bath Stone in Combe Down, which opens on Sundays and Mondays.

Ghost signs

'ghost signs' found on a building in Milsom Street, Bath Credit: Artur Lesniak/Reach

Although not under Bath, many of the city's 160 ghost signs go unnoticed as they are hidden in plain sight.

A ghost sign is an old hand-painted advertising sign which has been preserved on a building from many years ago.

These dense, diverse and faded advertisements for long, sometimes, forgotten businesses are scattered across Bath's many and varied buildings.

Some are hundreds of years old and are very much visible, others are a muddle of letters that are barely detectable.

Historians Andrew Swift and Kirsten Elliot have traversed much of the city, discovering more than 160 of these ghost signs.

Roman Baths

The Roman Baths Credit: Roman Baths

Perhaps one of the most photographed parts of Bath is the Roman Baths.

Indeed the cities fame centres on it.

The Roman baths - designed for public bathing - were used until the end of Roman rule in Britain in the fifth century.

However, there is always more Roman history to be discovered, and many sites remain hidden from the general public.

In April 2019, archaeologists began re-excavating a hidden Roman bath that sits beneath York Street, right next to the main group of Roman Baths.

The site of this bath had been difficult to gain access to in the past, but thanks to new funding, archaeologists were able to move in.

It is one of eight baths at the site, but due to its position cannot be seen by visitors.

Two Tunnels

Enjoyed by cyclists every day, the Two Tunnels is a part of Bath's history.

The cycle way is just south of the city, running between Oldfield Park and Midford.

It takes you through two old railway tunnels, including the mile-long Combe Down Tunnel, which is the longest walkable tunnel in the country.

Farleigh Down Tunnel

Farleigh Down Tunnel Credit: BPM Media

This very long tunnel was built during the Second World War to transport munitions from a railway siding to ammunition stores in nearby Monkton Farleigh mine.

The tunnel was linked to the Monkton Farleigh Central Ammunition Depot approximately one mile away.

One end of the tunnel has now been blocked off by a brick wall.