Urban explorer Matthew Williams first heard about the existence of an abandoned Victorian street in Bristol 30 years ago. He had read fascinating stories about the secret underground street in the Lawrence Hill area but never managed to find it. Until this year.
Although Matthew doesn’t want to reveal the precise location of the hidden street, it has been widely reported that it’s close to Lawrence Hill railway station.
When the road beneath a road was first discovered, there had been reports of local explorers unearthing still-glazed shop fronts and old gas street lamps hanging on the walls.
There was also an apocryphal tale of a man falling through a hole in the road after a trip to the pub and finding himself ‘transported’ back to Victorian times.
Over the years, there have been stories that the secret cellars had been used to store coffins, stables for delivery horses and as makeshift air raid shelter in the Second World War.
Matthew says: “I first heard about the street in the 1990s but could find no way to get into it. It seemed like everyone had heard about it but nobody knew exactly where it was.
“I even contacted business owners in the area who might have known if it was under their building and nobody seemed to know.”
Matthew then heard about another group of history explorers who believed it was accessible via a manhole cover in a street.
“They tried to go down there in daylight but were approached by a business owner who was not pleased with them attempting to open the manhole and made them go away.
“Perhaps they knew more about what was down there or how it connected to their basements, who knows?
“In order for us to get access we chose to do it at night, when there was a lot of activity from people coming and going from nearby houses.
“In order not to be spotted by people, we got a very large wheelie bin and placed it on one side of the manhole and parked my car on the other side.
“This gave a narrow slit behind my car around 3ft wide but kept it quite discreet. We were not seen slipping down the manhole even though it was a busy street.”
The video shows how Matthew and his accomplice finally made their way into the secret street, thick with cobwebs, spiders and rubble.
Amazingly, some of the original buildings had retained their windows and there were still items dating back a hundred years, including a spooky looking old pram.
Matthew says: “In the short time we got to look at the site, we could see what looked like old fashioned stained glass doors and windows and items such as prams, cans and metalwork which looked like it could be a hundred years old.
“I wondered if some of the areas were being used to house horses or coal stores but that is just a guess on my part.”
Since Matthew posted the video, around 27,000 people have watched it and he has received a huge response to his findings.
And it’s not the first time Matthew has filmed underground explorations in Bristol and he already has plans for further nocturnal visits.
“I have seen areas of Bristol where it was known that people used to live in an underground labyrinth of streets and would eat, work and sleep all underground in these tunnels with no real need to come up from underground.
“These are places with evidence of living areas with fires and cauldrons to make food and wash clothes.
“It is believed that you could walk from one side of Bristol city centre to the other in these tunnels. I have also seen tunnels dug by monks to channel spring water across what is now Temple Meads to the Cathedral.
“It’s a very large undertaking but Bristol has got a lot of secrets which it wants to reveal and I hope to find more of them soon.
“We have a lot of clues as to tunnels and bunkers and we are trying to document these before they get filled in and lost forever.
“All of this is helped by the tip-offs from the public so we are very happy to hear from anyone who has secrets in the gardens or basements, no matter how small.”