Sunday, May 07, 2006

Caves and smuggling tunnels at Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate

(see also the "Frank Illingworth's Puzzle Tunnel" post)


Smuggling Tunnel entrances, Pegwell Bay
Pegwell Bay, and Pegwell Village were once a hive of smuggling activity. The chalk cliffs surrounding the bay made it easy for smugglers to dig tunnels from the beach up to the houses and pubs in the nearby village. The Belle Vue Tavern for one is known to have various tunnel entrances from it's cellars, although these have long been sealed up!

Three entrances to the 'Witches Kitchen', (also known as the catacombs), visible in the cliff face

Above: One of the entrances to the 'Witches Kitchen'
These catacomb like tunnels loop around and come back on themselves, with several other tunnels shooting off inland, but leading nowhere after a short distance, or ending in a pile of rubble. Often smugglers would include some fake tunnels that led to dead ends in an attempt to out wit the customs officials and coastguards. They would sometimes carve a symbol of a fish in the chalk walls, with its tail pointing in the direction of the real escape tunnel!

Above: 3 tunnel entrances in the cliff at Pegwell - 'Belle Vue tunnels"
(taken in 1991)
Now compare the same view today (2008), below:

It is amazing to see how the ground level has risen a good 6 feet in the 17 years since the earlier picture was taken. This is due mainly to cliff and soil erosion over the years, and the construction of new sea defences

Above: Entrance to the 'Gunpowder Cave', Pegwell Bay

The Belle Vue tunnel

Above: Old stairs leading up through the cliff

Above: Old tunnel leading to the steps shown in the picture above


Smuggler's Wells - Pegwell Bay

Well shaft taken from below (looking up). This was taken in the "BelleVue stairs" tunnel. Note the smoother construction than the well below


Well shaft taken from inside the 'puzzle tunnel' (looking up), rougher construction


"The Pegwell Cave" - c.1828

An old etching of an even older tunnel that was cut through the chalk cliff from the village down to the beach - it was likely used by shrimpers and smugglers alike over the years, giving easy access to the bay.

It was filled in many years ago, although part of this tunnel can still be seen leading from the rear of a sea cave, but is blocked after a very short distance by chalk and rubble


Blogger Snailspace said...

Have you visited the underground kent site yet. Also very interesting.There are links to underground europe as well

9:26 pm  
Blogger thanetbloglist said...

You've been added to the Thanet Blog List @

Keep up the good work

12:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you vey much very interesting part of Thanet I did not know about,

10:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have a look
another interesting website

4:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am now 46 when I about 11/12 i spent most of my days with mates down the tunnels along pegwell and chiltern cliffs.It brought back memories of exploring the very long and narrow caves, sometimes having to reverse shuffle all the way back out.Very eerie but fun.

8:42 pm  
Blogger nadiah said...

i just stumbled upon this site. explored belle vue tunnels myself in 1971 when they were in much better condition. shame ww2 ballroom now blocked in ramsgate cos that was really fascinating - still had tables and chairs in it

6:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im now 21 but back in the day of 12-16 me and mates roamed all them tunnals and always wondered how and why they were there and the ones we could not get to you been i would luv your job:)

2:41 am  
Blogger Richard Goffin-Lecar said...

As a teenage boy in the 1970's,I thoroughly enjoyed exploring any tunnel that I could find out about. How I did not sustain serious injuries of any kind was probably just down to luck. Pegwell was particularly fascinating, and also (illegally!) entering the Hereson tunnel,armed with a powerful torch and a flash-equipped camera. All good, harmless fun.

1:00 pm  

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