Bespectacled & irrelevant
This is another one that's been a bit of a project. It started when Tweek mentioned that he was going to be over this way for a couple of days and we had a look for anything worth a poke at in the area. After a bit of looking he decided that there must be some drains under Skipton, its a pretty old place and being in Yorkshire has great need of water removal faculities.
A bit of googling brought up The Spider-man Drain by phill d from 2008 on flickr and a check here found a 2010 report from Andy J. It all looked good and we decided to check it out.
For various reasons that never happened..
I ended up having a quick look last September and found a nice old looking drain, took a couple of pictures and forgot all about it again. By the time I thought about going back properly, it was winter and it got put to one side to wait for more favourable weather.
Recently however, Tweek has been spending some time in the area and this came up as something that we needed to have a decent look at. Wadors were deployed and we set off for a nosey.
It starts off as a fairly large stone built drain with breaks in construction every 10 metres or so, as if its been built in sections over a period of time. We set off from the downstream end and worked our way up. Stopping to look back at one of the steps in the stonework, we were confronted by this. It's a massive patch of crystals growing from the stonework!
It really is that colour too, and there's also an odd smell in this part of the tunnel! The smaller arch to the left of the tunnel opens out to a short ladder up to a manhole. Anyway, we didn't hang about too long there..
Moving on up the drain, the next thing we found was a 600mm rcp joining from the right. There's a small inspection chamber with a ladder down. Just round the corner from here the tunnel opens out into a steep sided stone channel with the other end of the new pipe visible to the left.
Just inside the old section here it began to get interesting again, there's another section of different construction which looks older. It's built of large stone blocks which have been beautifully cut and faced. Each one even has a border cut into it. It seems like an incredible amount of work to put on the inside a drain.
There are also dozens symbols cut into the stone. As soon as we noticed one we saw two more. Tweek immediately recognised them as masonic symbols.
After about 10 metres in the open the stream goes back underground into modern corrugated section that starts to get a bit Tr0n like. This twists and turns a bit before opening into another modern concrete section with a kind of open vent that goes up into the middle of a shopping area.
These are all taken looking back downstream. Upstream opens out again into a small open stream and heads through a modern residential area. We followed a little way, but since there were no signs of any more underground action we called it a day and quickly headed to the far end of the stream where it joins Eller Beck. This is through a completely uninspiring modern concrete box section that runs underneath Morrisons car park before joining a larger modern concrete culvert.
Once we'd got home we set about trying to find out a bit more about what we'd found. Namely, how old was it, what did the symbols represent, and what the fuck was that blue stuff!?
The section with the masonic marks is actually a bridge under the Leeds-Liverpool canal. That should give us an accurate date at least, Google tells us that in Skipton it was completed in 1774, so the drain has to be at least that old.
Next the symbols, there are loads of compasses and set squares, pretty standard masonic fare. There's also a lot of a Volkswagon vw type design preceded by an upside down T that we were unable to identify. I suppose that's also standard masonic..
We had more luck with the back to back triangles though. A triangle pointing left is the symbol for 7 and a triangle pointing right is the symbol for 4, so we've got a bridge with a load of 74's carved into it underneath a canal dating from 1774.
The blue stuff was a bit more of a problem, we decided it had to be industrial waste of some kind, but what? Tweek had thought the smell in that section of tunnel reminded him of gas, so we had a look into that idea.
While we were discussing it, I remembered this-
So gas it is then. The map above is from 1852 and shows the town gasworks in exactly the right place in the bottom left. Google says it was there from 1836 to 1949. But what is that blue shit?
It turns out that gas used to be manufactured by baking coal and collecting the resulting gas. The problem was that this gas was full of impurities and needed purifying. This was done by passing it through beds of lime which reacted with the impurities removing them.
In the process it produced a fairly nasty byproduct called Blue Billy or Hexacyanoferrate to give it its proper name, which contains a selection of Cyanide compounds at 6%. One of these is iron ferricyanide, also called Prussian Blue.
Sorted again then.
While we were looking for information though, we turned up something else interesting. Upstream from where we got out there is a c17th pack-horse bridge which has been built over but is still visible from underneath. It's also Grade II listed, so we thought it might be worth a look at.
After a quick pitstop to the Paris Catas we found the time to go and check it out, there's a few other good bits up there too.
The Building above originally dates the same as the hidden bridge, now its an old substation with some nice vintage signage.
And here's the bridge, now hidden under a few tonnes of concrete..
And the way out the other end.