This story orignally appeared on Saturday, April 1st, 2017. For a very good reason! Sorry to all that got fooled. The best bit is we wrote to Oakley Court to warn them we were doing the gag and they wrote back to say we weren't as far out as you would imagine. There was a real tunnel, long lost now, that connected the court to the local inn just down the road. The site of the inn is now a private house.
Stephanie, fan club reps Rob and Kev and myself got a rather fun invitation in the last week of March this year to visit Oakley Court to see something rather fantastic.
For those of you who have read Jake H. Roche's book about Oakley Court you would have see the section where it was said that Queen Victoria called in one day to have a look around the court.
What wasn't in the book was the fact that she took a little more interest than just a casual visit.
The wall engraving on the right is a small clue as to what we got to see.
I should point out at this stage is I didn't get to take my camera kit in so the images are from my camera phone, which isn't that brilliant, sorry. Kev and Rob may have some better ones and I will update the page if they send some over.
Arriving at Oakley we were given a hard hat with a light each and we'd already been told to wear old clothes, it was exciting to see what they had in store for us as we headed down to the basement of the hotel.
They explained that there had recently been a clear out and they had found a wooden panel that was a little loose. On closer inspection the panel had proved to be just a false cover for a rather well preserved door. We were shown the door and Kev got the honour of unlocking it so we could see what was inside. We were having bets on what was in there. Steph thought it might be some more of the original Grifffins, Rob didn't care as long as he got to see something new at Oakley and I was rather hoping for an old wine cellar!
What we were not expecting was a very dark and very long tunnel.
Stephanie is not the best at confined spaces at the best of times, let alone cold, damp and dark tunnels but I am proud to say she ventured in with the rest of us for what proved quite a long walk.
A gradual slope led down for around fifty metres before the tunnel levelled off (where I took the phone photo shown here), and then it ran straight for another hundred metres or so. Andy our guide for the adventure explained that the tunnel actually got quite close to the Thames at that point, something Steph was not too impressed with however apart from a strong smell of damp the section we were in seemed quite dry considering.
At the end of the brick build tunnel was something we were not expecting, a dead end. Well I say a dead end, more like a solid concrete wall, something that looked a little out of place to say the least.
We headed back the way we came and over a lovely afternoon tea on the terrace Andy explained the history of the tunnel.
Apparently Queen Victoria's visit to the court in the early 1860's wasn't just a social call. Throughout her reign there were various attempts on the Royal House by assorted anarchists and malcontents, a fact not lost on the Victorian equivalent of our modern security services. It was decided there should be a means of escape for the Royals from Windsor Castle should their lives be in danger and so the plan for the Oakley Court tunnel was born.
Working in secret the tunnel took over five years to construct and originally ran a little over three miles from the castle to Oakley Court. It was in use for the entirety of Victoria's rule, falling into disrepair in the early 20th century after her death on the 22nd January 1901.
The tunnel was eventually sealed at the Oakley Court end late in 1984, hence the concrete, with the work being completed under the guise of gas mains replacements on the main road outside the hotel. Apparently a stretch of over a hundred metres was filled at the castle end back in the 1920's after the end of the first world war as the tunnel had already suffered two collapses since it was no longer maintained.
We did ask where all the information had come from and it appears that under the 30 year rule of declassifying government documents the details had been released a couple of years ago, not something that had been researched by the hotel though until they discovered the door and short tunnel and looked a little more into the history. As the information is in the public domain anyway and the tunnel is mostly filled in now we are able to mention it on the timewarp.org.uk site.
We'd like to thank Andy for taking the time to not only give us an exclusive tour, but also explain the significance of the tunnel. A unique insight into the shared history of both Windsor and Frank's castles!