READING the articles on the archaeological investigation in the area of the abandoned Municipal Offices, I hope that further investigation will also look into the ruins.

The two cottages that were compulsory purchased and destroyed, next to what was the coffee inn, belonged to my great uncle Harold and his daughter, my auntie Olive. As a very small boy I can remember being shown the tunnel entrance. My uncle and his brother, my grandfather Robert Gibson, walked me down to what they referred to as the cellar. It is obvious now that it was a room from the previous much older building that the brick cottages had been built on, for it was constructed from stone and had a fire place. My uncle pulled a metal ring in the floor of the fireplace and lifted a large square flagstone to reveal the stone steps leading into the tunnel. I was not allowed to go into the tunnel but was told that it was a smugglers tunnel.

I don't doubt that the tunnel was utilised by smugglers, and as my family had owned the property for some time, no doubt they had first hand knowledge. Later I was told the story of when my grandfather and my uncle were young men at the end of the nineteenth century, they decided to explore the tunnel. Making their way down under Chapelhay and Bincleaves where other tunnels went off to the Nothe and harbour, they eventually found themselves in a room under Sandsfoot Castle Gardens, where they described an oak table in the centre and a painting of a black cat on a wall. Most interesting was their description of doors that they could not open, either locked or seized.

These days I am of the opinion that these tunnels were, if not constructed by, but certainly improved by Royalist troops during the Civil War. Presumably one offshoot of the tunnel led to the blockhouse at the Nothe and another to the fortified chapel that Chapelhay gets its name from. They were quite sure that the room they were in was under Sandsfoot Gardens and not the castle itself, because they had explored the castle previously.

I know of several properties that have entrances to these tunnels, whether their occupiers do I'm not sure. During World War Two, I was told that Harold and his family, together with other families in the area who had access to the tunnels, used them as air-raid shelters.

I hope that the archaeologists investigate the tunnels, and can show some light on the age and use, I for one would love to see where my uncle sheltered during bombing raids and where smugglers transported their goods about the town, and how Royalist soldiers moved about in safety during Weymouth's and Melcombe's most troubled and bloody times. Dorchester is not shy about telling of their historic tunnels, I just hope that the people of Weymouth can now learn all there is to know about Weymouth's historic tunnels.

Eddie Hawkins

Abbotsbury Road