Wisbech Underground brought to life in mesmerising 3D surveys

Plan of Bays, Market Place
Lincoln Conservation, University of Lincoln

Deep beneath the streets of Wisbech lies a number of hidden vaults and tunnels and cells, cellars and crypts that help to tell a story of the town’s steeped history.

Away from the surface of modern-day life, the web of underground structures dating as far back as the 14th or 15th century have remained largely hidden from public view – until now.

Thanks to Fenland District Council’s Wisbech High Street Project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, an exciting series of investigations can now provide a rare, virtual tour of the world beneath our feet.

Since 2017, the Wisbech High Street Project has been working on ‘Wisbech Underground’ – starting with talks and school visits to Wisbech museum and Wisbech Castle vaults and more recently in 2020 working with Lincoln Conservation researching, mapping, and providing interpretation on a number of underground locations around the High Street.

The project had initially hoped to arrange public access to some of the hidden spaces, however, with so many in private ownership and unsuitable for safe access, it decided to carry out 3D modelling on as many of the locations as possible.

With full permission from owners and tenants, a team of professional surveyors and historic building experts, led by Lincoln Conservation, part of the University of Lincoln, got to work – starting with The Rose and Crown Hotel cellars in August 2020.

Using the latest laser scanning equipment, detailed measurements and images were taken at each location and combined to create interactive, fully navigable models.

Now incredible 3D surveys carried out beneath The Rose and Crown, Wisbech Sessions House and Wisbech Market Place are all available for people to explore from the safety of their own home. Detailed reports also offer new interpretations into the origins, uses and dates of some of the locations, adding further understanding of their history and development.

To take a virtual tour, visit the ‘Wisbech Underground’ webpage. All you need to take a tour is a laptop, tablet or mobile device and internet access.

Once Covid restrictions are eased on social gatherings later this year, the Wisbech High Street Project is looking to hold an event to showcase the results, along with a demonstration of the 3D scanning equipment used.

Cllr Chris Seaton, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Social Mobility and Heritage, said: “Wisbech town centre contains a huge number of cellars, storage vaults, drainage tunnels, crypts and passageways, many of which link back to when Wisbech was a major port from the 17th century onwards.

“Hidden away for so many years, these surveys have helped bring these fascinating historic locations to life once again. It will be great to showcase them properly with a public event when we can but, in the meantime, I would invite people to take a virtual tour of the locations accessed so far and find out more about their wonderful and unique history.”

  • If anyone has any information or stories to tell about the underground tunnels or would like to suggest a location for potential 3D surveys, the Wisbech High Street Project would love to hear from you. Get in touch with Taleyna Fletcher, Fenland District Council’s Wisbech Townscape Heritage Officer, via email at: tfletcher@fenland.gov.uk or phone 01354 622210.

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