THE UNDERGROUND PASSAGE.
Direction of underground passage
Following the usual tradition in such cases, an underground passage was
commonly supposed to lead from beneath the Palace to one or other of
the following buildings: West Ham Abbey, King John's Palace at Old
Ford, and Boleyn Castle at East Ham. During the demolition careful
search was made for remains of this passage, and it was found to actually
exist. Starting from the cellar under the 'scullery' in the north-east
corner, an arched opening in the east wall led into a square brick chamber eight feet by ten, with walls and arched roof of red bricks; a section
across the chamber is shown in the sketch. Continuing northward the
passage still retained its arched roof and was blocked by brick walls, evidently of dates subsequent to the passage, at every few feet. It was again
accessible by the trap door in the yard of the adjoining house, shown at
G, on plate 1, but beyond here had apparently been destroyed to make
room for the foundations of this house. As the work of demolition proceeded these portions of the passage were filled in with rubbish, and so
prevented the possibility of further exploration. Probably the passage
made a bend here eastward (it did not run under the 'Seven Stars'), and
curving round by the north side of the churchyard ran into, or alongside,
the river Lea. The crown of the vault is said to have given way a few
years since in the road at the north-west corner of the churchyard and to
have let a van down.
[Section of brick chamber in underground passage]
The following notes may be of interest, and throw some light on the
various statements as to the termination of the passage.
West Ham Abbey
At West Ham Abbey, the Cistercian Abbey of Stratford Langthorne, a
passage somewhat similar to that at the Palace was discovered in 1845,
and is fully described in Fry's 'East and West Ham,' p. 140. Its general
direction was, however, eastward, and terminated at some distance from
the abbey in a marsh ditch, from which it was inferred that the passage
had been an ancient monastic sewer.
King John's Palace
At King John's Palace, Old Ford (the remains of which, consisting of
some boundary walls, gateway, and a few fragments of buildings, are situated in Old Ford Road, about half a mile north of the Old Palace) the
writer is informed, by those who have seen it, that an arched subterranean
passage exists, commencing beneath the garden of the house at the south-east corner of Wick Lane, running southward under the 'Sounding
Alley' on the opposite side of Old Ford Road, then continuing in the
same direction across Tredegar Road near the spot occupied by the
'Joiners' Arms' public house. In this part of the passage a stone coffin
was found some 25 years ago.
At Boleyn Castle, a building of 16th century date, careful search at the
base of the tower, the supposed termination of the passage, has failed to
reveal any trace of the existence of such a passage.
It will appear from these notes that very little dependence can be placed
on the traditions respecting the termination of the passage. That it existed there can be no doubt; it was much too large and carefully built to be a
sewer; it is possible, therefore, that it was used as a secret means of access
to the house from the river.