Web
Analytics
General - - My search for the Luton Arches tunnels: the journey so far... | Military Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

General - My search for the Luton Arches tunnels: the journey so far...



Lewis Bianco

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Me and a friend have spent a good portion of this year trying to find a way into the fabled tunnels underneath Chatham Hill. We know that they exist due to a hole that we found in the chalk wall near the billboard going up Chatham Hill, however on closer inspection the hole has been back filled with chalk. Over the year I have been gathering as much information as possible about the Luton Arches tunnels, however the one question that keeps me up at night is how to get into them!
I understand that we're all in the same field here, however I want to get the word out that people are actively searching for clues and answers. This is my journey so far, but be warned that this thread will be a long read if you're not into that stuff. If you are then enjoy.

Where it all began
I first began searching for the Luton Arches tunnels sometime towards the end of April with a friend after reading a thread about the tunnels on an old forums site, here's the link: https://www.historicmedway.co.uk/chatham/strange.htm

Because I was at college at the time, I didn't get a lot of time to search with my friend and so it became a once a month sort of thing which was frustrating for both of us. Yes, I know that everyone says that the entrance is said to be behind one of the billboards, however I wanted to find an alternative way in since I wouldn't want to risk climbing over a tall billboard on a main road! By June we had almost given up hope on ever finding where these tunnels were, that was until one lunch break when me and my friend were out at the Lower Lines park, standing at the door of HMS Wildfire, when we got talking to a dog walker who was passing by and happened to notice us. I can remember him saying "Still not opened yet?".

Anyway, we got talking about HMS Wildfire and other derelict places in Kent and this guy had decades of knowledge about all sorts of hidden tunnels and abandoned buildings and I wish I had pen and paper on me that day! The man then told us of a tunnel that he and his friends use to play in when he was younger up at Chatham Hill. When we realised what tunnels he was referring to, we immediately began interrogating him of what he knew about the tunnels and where the entrance was. He told us that there use to be a hole in the ground in between Chatham Memorial and the school next to it. Surprised, we began an extensive search for the hole, however we never found anything. This search went on into July, that's how desperate I was by this point.

The search ended in July just before we broke up for the summer holidays after we began finding silly things other than any holes in the ground such as long abandoned tramps tents and a couple of old drugs dens with the needles all still lying around... On one occasion my mate slipped into a whole bunch of stinging nettles after losing his footing on a brick that he was using for support during a period of time when we thought that we found Cheesemans Farm. We met up again once during the summer holidays to take another crack at finding the tunnels, though by this point it was merely just wishful thinking on our behalf so we gave up searching for the Luton Arches tunnels and instead focused on other things such as day trips to Dover for some proper urbex.

What happened next?
After returning to college in September, there wasn't really a lot else that me and my mate could do besides save up for a train ticket each to Dover, but deep down we were too disappointed to speak about the Luton Arches tunnels because it felt like the harder we tried to find them, the more further away the answers were, but we both knew deep down that there was only one way to find the truth of about these tunnels, and it lied behind a billboard.

While we were no longer speaking about the Luton Arches tunnels, something else popped up in the few weeks that passed that would once again reignite our passion for finding them. By my second week of college in my new course, I met someone who turned out to be a secret urban explorer. I will keep this individual anonymous for privacy reasons. We spoke about all sorts of different places from Grain Battery Tower to the reservoir in Brompton. I was invited to go and see an old brick works called Fentons at one point. As we continued our conversation, I was told that they knew someone who knew a lot about Kent and where all of the tunnels and abandoned buildings are. But the bit that caught my interest was that they were investigating a tunnel that they had recently found which they believed to be the Luton Arches tunnels.

I was gobsmacked. After all these months of searching to no prevail and just as I gave up hope, something new comes along which picks me back up again. I asked if I could visit this place and I was told yes but only when a day could be arranged. In the meantime I told my friend about this and he too was surprised by this news. Not long after I received news of this newly found tunnel entrance, I was also told by my anonymous friend that they had insider knowledge of the tunnels, thanks to another friend's 88 year old father who was stationed in those tunnels during WW2.

I asked my friend if they knew anything new about the tunnels and what I was told next is apparently meant to be classified. Apparently there was an incident sometime in 2014 when a horrific discovery was made by two squaddies who were surveying the tunnels at the time. The story goes that in 2014, when Kitchener Barracks was being cleared out ready for the demolition teams to come in at a later date, the army were using the Luton Arches tunnels for storage purposes before moving it all around again to another location. While this was all going on, two squaddies were surveying the tunnels up ahead and found dead frozen stiff bodies of two Napoleonic era English soldiers. It was said that their bodies, clothes and weapons had remand preserved due to the fridge like conditions down there. The two squaddies thought it was a reenactment or something but it wasn't until they got closer that they realised what they had found. Soon after the discovery was reported, the MOD blocked as many entrances as they could find and closed off the tunnels for further investigation.

Now by this point you're either laughing your head off thinking "what a load of crap!" or confused/puzzled at how this could possibly be real. I'm not saying a word. There are always rumours, myths and legends created on forums that do nothing but spread false information and create "creepy pastas". This is what I have been told and whether you believe it or not is entirely up to you. I will not waste my time making up stories, I will only tell you what I have been told by a trusted source and that's it.

After being told about this, I immediately told my other friend who I had started this adventure with and soon other urban explorers such as Simon from SubExploration who, understandably, took it with a pinch of salt. It was a relief to finally get some dirt on the Luton Arches tunnels after all these months of seeking information. Whether it is true or false is up for debate, but this is the current state of the tunnels as they are nothing more than debates on 10+ year old forums with dead accounts arguing about how this tunnel could connect to that tunnel and how wrong we all are for believing in such fairy tales etc etc...

The hole in the ground
And this is where the journey sort of ends. A couple of weeks ago, me and another friend of mine were out in Chatham and happened to be walking past the Luton Arches, so we decided to quickly take a look at the chalk wall face to see if we could find anything of interest since it is winter now (as of writing this) and most of the plant life is dead and shrivelled. As I peered over towards the billboard just going up Chatham Hill, I noticed a hole. I couldn't believe my eyes...how did I miss that during the summer...

After a brief moment of victory went over me and my friend, I got closer towards the hole and although I couldn't get a good look at it due to not having my torch on me that day, I could make out a very old and very dusty cobweb hanging from the top of it. Bursting with excitement once I got back home, I called my friend to let him know of the find and we planned to go there at the beginning of the next week. We met up at Chatham bus station and proceeded into a couple of shops in the Pentagon for supplies such as string because our thought at the time was that the tunnels would be like a maze in there, and because there are no known plans for the tunnels we'll just have to draw them up ourselves. We also brought some spare batteries for my friend's brand new torch in Wilko's.

After getting what we needed, we went straight off towards the Luton Arches and when we arrived, the first thing that we looked at were all the cameras pointing in all different directions... Ignoring that, we continued towards the chalk face and then to the hole. My friend went ahead as he admittedly had the better torch and as he shone it into the hole, all I heard was "Shit, its back filled!" Gutted by this, we stopped and took some time to think about what to do next. We searched around some more and even at one point attempted to squeeze through a gap in between the chalk face and some wood, however it was not enough so we called it a day and ended our search for the entrance into the Luton Arches tunnels there and then.

After nearly nine months of searching for a way into a legendary set of tunnels, it had all come down to this. In hindsight we both pretty much agree now that what we did was a huge waste of time, however I like to see it as more of an experience for me personally. For me, I enjoyed the sense of adventure and how one small idea to find a tunnel became a massive game of Clue for both me and my friend who had been with me every step of the way. We met new people, gained more knowledge and had fun investigating at a time when we knew so little. Urban exploring for me is not just about challenging yourself to climb down cliff faces or doing it for views on YouTube. For me its about the experiences you gain when you're dead set on an idea, regardless of whether or not it plays out the way that you wanted it to.

What now then?
As of now, I am no longer actively searching for the Luton Arches tunnels until I can get concrete proof of a legitimate entrance. I've been told that there are meant to be holes somewhere on the Luton Rec which I have not got around to investigating yet, and of course I am still waiting to hear back from my anonymous friend who said that I would get to go to this supposed entrance, though we haven't spoken in months due to drifting apart. Whatever happens, I will update this thread when I feel that the responses are appropriate enough to satisfy everyone. Until then, thanks for reading.
 
Last edited:

bri365

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
There was a rumour when I worked at Fort Amherst in 1983 on a government training scheme, that there was a tunnel that linked the fort with Medway Hospital but it was said that the railway line between Chatham and Gillingham cut across this tunnel. As to the Tunnel with the big Iron doors behind the billboards at the bottom of Chatham Hill, this is where the Chatham traction company kept a banking tram/loco that was used to help push/pull trams up Chatham Hill in adverse winter weather.
When I was growing up in Chatham, there was an old wives tale that Fort Luton, Fort Horsted, Fort Bridgewood, Fort Borstal, Fort Darland and Fort Clarence where all connected by tunnels. Not true. Fort Bridgewood is now an industrial estate and Fort Darland is a housing estate and Fort Clarence is a private residence.
There was also a rumour that there was a tunnel entrance at Luton Recreation ground that gave access to Fort Bridgewood. Again unfounded.
 

seeker77

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
There was a rumour when I worked at Fort Amherst in 1983 on a government training scheme, that there was a tunnel that linked the fort with Medway Hospital but it was said that the railway line between Chatham and Gillingham cut across this tunnel.
Have you seen this:

Hi, I stumbled on your website purely by accident while doing research into a mysterious hole that appeared in Bill st, frinsbury back in 1969, where a woman was swallowed by the hole and never seen again.

Anyway, to your Chatham Hill tunnel, it should be tunnels.

I used to live at Longhill Ave back in the 60's as a child. I used to play in these tunnels which were also accessible via a farm that used to be on the lines known as Cheeseman's farm, long since gone and the expansion of Upbury Manor school has covered the original site of the farm.

The farm had a spiralling stairway down to the network of tunnels under the lines, one of which came out at the bottom of Chatham Hill. From the inside, you could see daylight out on to Chatham Hill via a small opening of a cave in.

This was the tunnel covered now by the big chalk boulder. This was deliberately sealed when us kids were discovered in there by the MOD.

Before we were discovered, we had weeks to travel down the tunnels (stupid now I look back, but no fear at the age of 8) which were quite extensive. There were tunnels that branched off in all directions, only a few could be explored that hadn't caved in.

One led out to the Luton Arches, behind the Billboard, which we used to access the tunnel because we couldn't be seen behind the Billboard.This one would gradually increase in accent, then open up in to a great big chamber, with lots of other tunnels coming off it, a hub so to speak. One of these tunnels went west in a downward gradient for about 1/4 of a mile, then it was water logged. This now has occurred to me it must be under the Brook.

One tunnel crossed another large tunnel with disused railway lines which I am assuming now being the bricked up one you mention.This tunnel is blocked internally with another brickwork frontage about a 1/2 mile inwards.

From the entrance at the Great Lines, there is a tunnel that goes South on a downward slope to a T junction that runs East/West. Off this tunnel there are chambers which had empty boxes/chests, but smelled of sulphur. And we found lots of lead balls, now knowing they were musket balls.

There was always a wind in the tunnels blowing in one direction, we never found out where it was coming from.
https://www.historicmedway.co.uk/chatham/strange.htm

As to the Tunnel with the big Iron doors behind the billboards at the bottom of Chatham Hill, this is where the Chatham traction company kept a banking tram/loco that was used to help push/pull trams up Chatham Hill in adverse winter weather.
Ahhhhhhh, so that wasn't the bricked-up tunnel which is closest to the top of the hill. Do you know what this was used for? It's currently covered by overgrowth and a newer billboard, but here is a photo:

1558456302989.png


When I was growing up in Chatham, there was an old wives tale that Fort Luton, Fort Horsted, Fort Bridgewood, Fort Borstal, Fort Darland and Fort Clarence where all connected by tunnels. Not true. Fort Bridgewood is now an industrial estate and Fort Darland is a housing estate and Fort Clarence is a private residence
.
Fort Darland probably wasn't connected to anything, too remote.
Fort Luton, Horsted, Bridgewood and Borstal were connected by a railway (built by prisoners from Borstal prison), which is why along Magpie Hall Road there is the large grass verge to the side of the road.

Regarding Fort Clarence and Fort Pitt, I have seen this:

...while I was doing an apprenticeship at Blaw Knox, along the Esplanade, they used to use tunnels for storage at the back of the factory. We used to climb through a hole in a bricked up wall and explore during our dinnertime.

We used to walk down a long tunnel that ran parallel to the Esplanade, we would walk for 20 minutes before turning back to get back to work on time.

One day, we all had a day off together, 4 of us and went in to work geared up for exploration.

We walked down that tunnel for about half an hour and came to a chamber with 4 tunnels coming off it. We followed one which went downwards and had to stop because it was water logged, totally blocked, it looked like a puddle, but was increasing in depth. We guessed it was going under the river. Which now I know there is a tunnel under the river from Upnor Castle to the dockyard.

The other tunnel went north towards the dockyard, but was blocked off with an MOD sign on the wall. Back tracking to the chamber, we went south east for a few hundred yards and came to another bricked off wall with a sign saying MOD Ft. Clarence. Which is just off St Margaret's Street and I think now owned by BT.

The last tunnel went due East for ages we walked down this dead straight tunnel, in the distance we could see daylight so kept walking. Eventually we came to a little hole which we peered out of and was over looking Chatham Reach the river. But we was quite high up and could see the new road and St Barts hospital. We guessed we were next to the Art college, there was a sign obscuring our view, so we decided to go and have a look from the outside.

Once we got back to Blaw Knox, we jumped in our cars and drove to the Art college.

There we found the sign, which is/was to the left of the front of the college just above the unadopted road. I think this is where Fort Pitt was situated, or part of it.
https://www.historicmedway.co.uk/chatham/forts.htm

I am a little dubious about tunnels going under the Medway, I don't think that's possible. However, Clarence to Pitt seems plausible.

There was also a rumour that there was a tunnel entrance at Luton Recreation ground that gave access to Fort Bridgewood. Again unfounded.
Are you sure you mean Bridgewood and not Darland? Bridgewood is miles away. I could imagine a tunnel from Fort Darland to the land above Ash Tree Lane (alongside the park).[/quote]
 

Lewis Bianco

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Right so I've decided to clear something up which I've been getting a lot of crap from ever since writing this whole thing as I've done the research and spoken to people and now I can give you the truth...

"I asked my friend if they knew anything new about the tunnels and what I was told next is apparently meant to be classified. Apparently there was an incident sometime in 2014 when a horrific discovery was made by two squaddies who were surveying the tunnels at the time. The story goes that in 2014, when Kitchener Barracks was being cleared out ready for the demolition teams to come in at a later date, the army were using the Luton Arches tunnels for storage purposes before moving it all around again to another location. While this was all going on, two squaddies were surveying the tunnels up ahead and found dead frozen stiff bodies of two Napoleonic era English soldiers. It was said that their bodies, clothes and weapons had remand preserved due to the fridge like conditions down there. The two squaddies thought it was a reenactment or something but it wasn't until they got closer that they realised what they had found. Soon after the discovery was reported, the MOD blocked as many entrances as they could find and closed off the tunnels for further investigation."

I knew from the start that posting this paragraph was a bad idea until further evidence could be obtained, however after talking to somebody about this, they laughed at me and told me that its all bullshit. He linked me to this and I can confirm that my friend was either lying, or was presented with false information: https://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/napoleonic-soldiers-found-at-for-a52308/
 

Oxygen Thief

Admin
Staff member
Admin
I'll point out the obvious, but I'm sure you'll have seen that's an April Fool article?
 

Vapeexpert86

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
same as people believed there was a old underground railway system under ipswich (me being one of them lol)until i found the april fools article
 

Taliesin Bourne

Specsy
28DL Full Member
There was a rumour when I worked at Fort Amherst in 1983 on a government training scheme, that there was a tunnel that linked the fort with Medway Hospital but it was said that the railway line between Chatham and Gillingham cut across this tunnel. As to the Tunnel with the big Iron doors behind the billboards at the bottom of Chatham Hill, this is where the Chatham traction company kept a banking tram/loco that was used to help push/pull trams up Chatham Hill in adverse winter weather.
When I was growing up in Chatham, there was an old wives tale that Fort Luton, Fort Horsted, Fort Bridgewood, Fort Borstal, Fort Darland and Fort Clarence where all connected by tunnels. Not true. Fort Bridgewood is now an industrial estate and Fort Darland is a housing estate and Fort Clarence is a private residence.
There was also a rumour that there was a tunnel entrance at Luton Recreation ground that gave access to Fort Bridgewood. Again unfounded.
what happened to the engine? dismantled...?
 

Cosmo Smallpiece

28DL Member
28DL Member
I looked into the stories of the Luton Arches tunnels some time back. It's worth noting that anyone can access old maps, including ordnance survey maps online. I never saw any evidence of tunnels on the Great Lines at the spot suggested. Tellingly, neither could I find any trace of Cheese man's Farm!
Also remember the tale of tunnels running to the hospital being later dissected by the railway tunnel - well it's worth considering the historical records. Crucially the railway tunnel was built around 1850 and the military hospital built around 1900. So that can't be right!
On the positive. Those sealed up portals were there since the 1930/1940 period. A short parade of shops backed into them. One was a butchers and used the tunnel for storage. I never saw anything else recording these. It's quite possible that it was originally some kind of chalk/flint quarry, as the multiple admits in chalk is seen in such elsewhere. So I guess they probably do go in, but possibly not that far?
Good luck with further searching. I thought you used to be able to squeeze around the side of the billboard?
 

Similar threads



Top