The Park Tunnel was completed in May 1855, but it’s inception may fall back 28 years earlier to 1827 when such an idea was proposed by architect Peter Frederick Robinson. The tunnel was built under the watchful direction of Thomas Chambers Hine, an architect and surveyor of The Park development. The tunnel was intended as a primary link to the rest of the city and it was expected to see high volumes of people using it. This link would provide an ease of access to The Park and give it almost a sense of grandeur, in the fact that it would have such an elaborate entrance to it. However, before it was completed, more favourable routes had become available as parts of other developments. When I visited it, I could definitely imagine it becoming a bustling street of people moving to and from The Park. In the past it may well have been a lively place to be. However, now it is dark and damp and cold and empty. Upon feeling the walls, you can tell that the rock has been weathered by wind and rain. This said though, it remains a very impressive structure. I loved that for something so big, it was so well hidden. It feels sad to me that it is so unknown, that it does not see the purpose for which it was intended. Sadder still is that it never has. I would be happy to see the tunnel become popular and full of life. Though at the same time, could it be that the immaterial value of the tunnel lies in it’s anonymity? To go down there now is a completely different experience than the intended one, but it is one which is uncommon in the modern world and even further so in a city. To go down there alone allows you to explore it with all your senses, and experience it to your own content.
So I've lived in Nottingham all my life. Furthermore, I only live a short walk away from the city centre. But in all 20 years of my life I have never once heard of, never mind seen, Derby Road Tunnel . . .
So imagine my surprise when this great big cavernous tunnel just appears at the top of an unsuspecting road behind an unsuspecting wall! After walking up Derby Road, there is a small gateway in a wall, walk through and you are met by a set of steps which, in nice sunny conditions are probably cautious but pleasurable descent. But on a damp and slightly rainy day like the day our group went to the tunnel, they are fraught with peril.
Once down to the ground, the tunnel revealed it's true scale. It. Is. Huge! Although not especially long, it is remarkably tall. A used the word cavernous earlier on in this post, that was not an understatement!
It was quite damp down in the tunnel and sounds echoes when in it. It could feel slightly isolating, and certainly cold, when inside, even with so many people around. However things change when you are in the opening which the steps lead you too. There is a broad sense of expansive space, even despite it being fairly limited. You can see the sky so clearly and unimpeded that it feels open. But the moment I looked at any of the surround stone, there was the instant reminder of impeding power that the tunnel presents upon you.
I'll end this post by finishing at the same time as the tunnel does. When you walk through the tunnel, you end up in a part of Nottingham known as 'The Park', which despite what its name might suggest, is a residential area with (to my knowledge) only one small actual park. But when you walk out of the tunnel there is a sense of freedom that takes over you. The atmosphere frees up and you can breathe again. The echoes stop and you walk in peace.
The first thing I noticed about The Park though, was that instead of double yellow lines, they have double blue . . .
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/exhibitions/online/park/tchine.aspx - 09/10/2013