According to my map of Shrewsbury dated 1880, this was called Jones Mansion, and a little additional digging revealed that it had that name because it was lived in by an Edward Jones in the 1600s, who was the steward to the borough of Shrewsbury. His brother, Thomas Jones, was a bailiff before he became mayor in 1638.
And during the English civil war, this place became the accomodation of the royalist commander, Prince Rupert.
When Edward Jones died, the mansion was inherited by his son, another Thomas Jones, who was a lawyer.
The mansion was said to have a large forecourt but this was built over in the 1700s, and by the end of the 1800s, the place had been divided into five separate houses.
Throughout the 20th Century it was, along with other buildings, all incorporated into the Prince Rupert Hotel, and today what stands is a mighty amalgamation of several era's worth of buildings, and it really shows! Some chunks of the Prince Rupert Hotel are obviously more ancient than others.
Just look at how crooked this hallway is! I haven't made it to the bar yet and already I feel tipsy! This place is great!
This is perhaps the oldest part of the hotel, and has been dated back to the 12th Century, but it's kept to such high standard. If it wasn't for that fire existinguisher there I'd almost think I was actually stepping into the past. Historical authenticity or health and safety? What an awful choice to have to make!
Aside from the obvious fact that the hotel has incorporated a building once resided in by Prince Rupert, the hotel has also been stayed in by Margaret Thatcher,
And let me tell you, the place certainly has an atmosphere! Walking these hallways, I keep expecting to suddenly bump into those twins from the Shining or something.
But while the ghost stories are unavoidable and certainly fascinating, they're not what brought me to the Prince Rupert Hotel. I was here for the rumours of tunnels. Allegedly the Prince Rupert Hotel sits on top of one of the largest underground tunnel networks in Shrewsbury.
I say allegedly, because people keep also alleging that there's a tunnel from the abbey to the castle, but there's a goddamn river in the way!
Of Shrewsbury's underground tunnels, there isn't much except speculation. So far I've confirmed that there were tunnels beneath St Mary's Church but these were blocked off when they began collapsing. There was also a tunnel leading from Old St Chads to the Golden Cross Hotel, as well as an overhead walkway! Pictures of the crypt of Old St Chads depict more than one subterranean doorway, and I really think one of these may have been the Princess Street Tunnel, which may also have led to the Music Hall eventually, and with rumours of tunnels beneath the square, possibly to the Hole in the Wall too, but like I said, it's all speculation. All I can do is map out where entrances are and which direction these things point in before they get bricked off, and use common sense. If Point A is pointing at Point B and Point B is pointing at Point A, but both are blocked off, maybe they were once connected? Nobody builds passageways to nowhere.
I was expecting the Prince Rupert Hotel tunnels to be underneath Butcher Row. I was very wrong. They are underneath the older portion of the hotel that was Jones Mansion, and what really intrigues me is that up until a few years ago, nobody knew they existed! One room was getting renovated and beneath some floorboards, a spiral staircase was discovered, leading ominously down into the ground.
This stairway dates back to thr 12th Century, and was part of the old town walls. The resulting cellar is cavernous and full of intrigue.
Situated on the right of the image is the door that the stairs brought me out of, but as you can see, there's a bricked up doorway right at the end of this arched area, which does actually point in the direction of Butcher Row.
Turning clockwise around the passageway, there is this really intriguing archway in the ground, which obviously led to a lower level at some stage. This points in the direction of the top of Pride Hill. According to the 1880 map of Shrewsbury, St Mary's Almshouse was this way, which instantly fuels the intrigue, since staff at St Mary's Church have confirmed that tunnels went from the church to the surrounding buildings. The enormity of the history certainly fuels speculation. St Mary's Church is the oldest religious site in Shrewsbury, being a Pagan site long before it was the current church, and also being on top of an underground stream of water, which is believed to gather in a deep underground well, said to have healing properties that are still retained and dished out to anyone who sits in the seat its now several feet beneath. The odds of St Mary's underground tunnels stretching to the St Mary's Almshouse across the road are quite high, these being established in the 1400s, and the tunnels being closed of only around a hundred years ago. But why were the Prince Rupert Hotel cellars linked, if they even were? It's difficult to say, when dealing with nine hundred years of history. Any feature in this cellar could have been added or modified over the years, and my map merely says what was there in 1880. The almshouse may not be what it was connected to at all, since the cellar predates it by several centuries.
And turning clockwise again, to the end of the arched area, there is another obvious doorway. The town crier was allegedly once standing in this corner when he felt unseen hands try to pull him through this door, which points in the direction of St Mary's Church.
Also present is this old delivery shute, which leads out onto St Mary's Street.
And on the opposite side to the low down arch the cellar continues into a delightfully ancient storage cellar, with little cubicles. These are pretty ancient storage compartments, although how ancient nobody seems to know.
But check out this ancient door! One of the wonderful aspects of this cellar is that due to it being sealed off for so long, nothing has been modernized. Sure, it has electricity, but thats only to give it ease of accessibility for the ghost tours that come down here. All the rest is as it was found.
Through this door was another expansive area, with a small doorway leading back towards St Mary's Street, where there is another delivery shute, which no longer reaches the street. Given that each delivery shute is either side of a storage area, this isn't that surprising. But there was more to come.
This seemingly innocent looking cupboard is actually of interest. Allegedly on a ghost tour down here, a lady ran screaming from there claiming that it felt wrong, and that she had to get out. And apparently, a skeleton of a girl was once found in there, although I don't know the details of this particular story. However, I did venture into the cupboard to see if I could feel anything, and I found it to be quite deep, for a cupboard, but very narrow and turning at a sharp right angle.
Who knows what was here originally. It seems like a bizarre place to have a shelving unit. In all honesty, I can't imagine anyone building an L-shaped, storage room that is this narrow. I had to really squeeze to get through it. It seems to me that the shelves were added long after this room outlived its original purpose, whatever that is. Either way, removing the shelves would make the width manageable for the average human.
This door is also pretty ancient, but it leads nowhere. It's been completely blocked off, but it points out into St Mary's Street again, at the top of Dogpole. We're a bit further down now, so whatever lies behind this door doesn't point to St Marys church itself, so where would it lead, and also, why?
Nearby, a moving shadow across my peripheral vision made me jump, my mind having been digesting all the ghost stories of the place, but it turned out that there was a circular opening to floor level and that whenever anyone walked by, their shadow would flit across the cellar. But again, nobody knows why this opening exists. The obvious answer would be that this archway was a delivery shute again but the opening is far too small. It seems intended to allow sunlight, which would be a fine architectural feature if the archway was a dark narrow underground passageway.
To my surprise, this archway was one of three, the second of which was partially obscured by a much more modern, but still ancient elevator, and the third only visible in a really cluttered and awful photograph. Nobody knows when the elevator was installed, or who used it. But the archways are considerably older.
As I said this next picture isn't brilliant, but the third archway can be seen here, on the far right, with the original on the far left, and the elevator obscuring the middle one. These archways are of real curiosity to me, because they aren't delivery shutes and nobody would build them for the sake of it. They would have once been doorways, I am certain, and they point directly at a truly ancient pub, the Loggerheads, which is one of my favourite places to go for a drink.
Quite curiously, when one steps back and looks at these archways in comparison to the other door, it seems pretty obvious from the contrast in the flooring and that big chunk of wall sticking out there that the three archways were originally blocked off from the rest of the cellar, before being opened up again.
When and why was this done? Nobody knows, but we have 900 years to work with.
A final doorway led to a room with an arched ceiling. If this ever led anywhere, it would be toward St Alkmunds church.
This is apparently the site of a lot of spooky activity, and is apparently haunted by a small boy who drowned in a pond that used to exist nearby in the 1800s.
Some of the brickwork at the back has been replaced over the years, but whether it leads anywhere is a matter of speculation.
Apparently seances have taken place in this room, and some people cannot even stay in it for long without leaving in a panic. Some have even reported being choked by invisible hands, while others have felt an invisible presence holding their own hands. There was certainly an atmosphere about the place. I felt like I was being watched the entire time I was down there, and that if I would turn my head slightly I would see the observer. But of course, there was nobody there. At least not to my knowledge.
It truly is a fascinating plethora of historic possibility beneath the Prince Rupert Hotel, with the true purpose of much of it nothing more than speculation even to the owners. This cellar was, after all, boarded up for many years, and knowledge of its existence is relatively new to the owners and to the people of Shrewsbury, comparatively at least to the years it's been hidden away. And with a history stretching back as far as this does, it's no wonder that there are ghost stories.
If all the blocked doorways beneath Shrewsbury could be bashed down, who knows what we would find?
Above ground and in contrast to this dark and dusty underworld, the Prince Rupert remains one of Shrewsbury's most successful and famous hotels. I have never stayed there. I don't need to, living barely a stones throw away, but I can honestly say if I was visiting Shrewsbury this would definitely be the place I'd stay. It looks great, and it's ancient, and has hundreds of stories to tell.
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