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A well-shaft apparently leading to a tunnel was found beneath “Rocklands”, on the corner of Atherton Street and Victoria Road Dating from the mid nineteenth century, this house was formerly part of Somerville School, a “preparatory school for the sons of gentlemen”, and once owned by Captain Henry Flinn, a founder of the Dominion Shipping Line. The main part of the school, later known as “Gorselands”, stood on the opposite corner , but was demolished many years ago. Rocklands, however, still stands.
The current occupant, who bought the place in 2003, was warned against letting his children into the cellars by the former owner who explained that there was a shaft in the second cellar that led down into a tunnel. The cellar is divided into two parts, one of which is used as a washhouse, with a hatch leading through into a second, low-ceilinged cellar that lies beneath the living room bay window. This was supposedly the location of the shaft, although no sign of it was found. The previous occupant said that his father had blocked up the shaft with building rubble, although the neighbour’s son, now in his forties, had been down it as a child. Talking to this man, the current owner (who would prefer to remain anonymous) learned that the tunnel had been located elsewhere in the house, somewhere towards the back. Further investigation uncovered paperwork dating from the 1990s, when the mother of the previous occupant had rented out the property as bedsits. She applied for a renovation grant from the local authority, and during her improvements the builders discovered a well shaft in the lounge which is believed to lead to the tunnel entrance in question. It appears that it was a convention among local smugglers to disguise tunnel entrances as well shafts to ward off suspicion, as was also the case at Mother Redcap’s and St Hilary’s rectory. This well shaft is in a good position to lead to the tunnel from Portland Street to SS Peter and Paul. A photograph exists showing the lady in question standing by the shaft accompanied by the two builders. When questioned, the builders themselves said that no sign of a tunnel was discovered at the time, although the well was not explored. They capped it with a steel plate and Concrete.