Tunnel visions in Leeds

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They are the secret passageways which give a whole new meaning to life below stairs.

These dimly-lit corridors are hidden in the depths beneath Temple Newsam House in east Leeds.

And back in the 18th century they were the only means available to servants to ferry food, drinks and laundry from one side of the stately home to the other.
In fact, one runs right the way under the famous courtyard, linking the north and south wings of the part-Tudor mansion.

Visitor assistant Julie Holroyd said: “In those days the homeowner would not have wanted to see his servants in the house. The passageways would have been built to allow the servants to get from one side of the house to the other without being seen.
“Then they would have been dark quite eerie places, now we’ve lit them and they’re not quite so scary.”

Now, visitors to the house can see the tunnels for themselves as a new season of special interest tours is launched.

Cellar

The tour lets people explore other unseen parts of the house, including the old cellars, the butler’s pantry in which the expensive drinks were hidden from the lower servants, a brushing room where huntsmen would dust down their shoes and another secret passage from the dining room into the drinks cellar.

Visitors will also hear the story of the darker sides of Temple Newsam House, including its “resident ghost” – murdered 16-year-old nursemaid Phoebe Gray.

The teenager was brutally strangled by fellow servant William Collinson at a party to celebrate victory in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

Panicking he dumped her body in the old well in the cellars.

Ever since, Phoebe is said to haunt the back stairs and passages. People say they’ve heard muffled screams and the bump, bump, bump of a body being dragged down the stairs to a watery grave.

The house itself dates back as far as 1480, though much of it has been demolished and rebuilt.

It was built on land formerly occupied by the medieval Christian military order, the Knights Templar, from which it gets its name.

Entry for the special tour – which runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays – is free with admission to the house, but places must be booked in advance.

Contact Temple Newsam house on 0113 264 7321.
vicki.robinson@ypn.co.uk

By Vicki Robinson, Evening Post