Exeter's Underground Passages
Off High Street
A visit to Exeter's Underground Passages is a most unusual event and one of the most exciting things available for young people in the City of Exeter. The passages welcome bookings from schools, student groups, clubs and societies. Guides at the passages regularly receive letters, stories and pictures from school children who have enjoyed their visits.
Dating from 14th century, these medieval passages under Exeter High Street are a unique ancient monument: no similar system of passages can be explored by the public elsewhere in Britain. They were built to house the pipes that brought fresh water to the city. Visitors to the Underground Interpretation Centre pass through an exhibition and video presentation before their guided tour.
Exeter's Underground Passages have long exercised a fascination over local people, bringing stories of buried treasure, secret escape routes, passages for nuns and priests - even a ghost on a bicycle. Their purpose was simple: to bring clean drinking water from natural springs in fields lying outside the walled city, through lead pipes into the heart of the city. The pipes sometimes sprang leaks and repairs to buried pipes could only be carried out by digging them up as we do today. To avoid this disruption the passages were vaulted and it is down some of these vaulted passageways that visitors are guided.