I remembered reading a year or two ago about mail tunnels under St James’s Building on Oxford Road. They were for use during the second world war, I think, and included some sort of railway.
I’m not sure whether these are the same tunnels, but I’ve been reading about the Guardian telephone exchange:
These Cold War tunnels were built in 1954/5 by Polish immigrants who couldn’t speak English. At least one Pole died and his ghost is rumoured to haunt the place, which is closed to the public.
Here’s the recreation room, complete with piano and pool table:
The £4m structure was paid for by NATO – i.e. America – and running costs have since been covered by the Post Office and British Telecommunications, who have occupied it. Here’s some more information from George Coney’s excellent site:
“It is 112 feet (34m) below ground and cost £4 million to construct. The main tunnel, one thousand feet long and twenty-five feet wide (300m by 7m), lies below buildings in Back George Street, linking up to an anonymous and unmarked surface building containing the entrance lifts and ventilator shafts.”
The main entrance is between Princess Street and Dickinson Street in the city centre, and can be passed on both George Street and Saint James Street. Other entrances are situated at Telephone Buildings on York Street, in Ardwick (Lockton Close) and in Salford (Islington Street).
Of course, something this big couldn’t pass Mancunians by entirely and a few Flickr users have spotted the entrances and a planning application notice to expand the George Street site. HugoVK also took a decent shot of the main entrance.
In March 2004 the tunnels were hit by a fire, causing a telephone outage for several days. Of course, the vague conspiracists were out in force:
“Funny how these lines run through a so-called secret tunnel network own by the government. Trust me, this is a botched attempt by the government to launch an information blackout in Manchester. The reason for this we can only guess but in my opinion it can’t be because something good is going to happen” – The Mole, MEN site
I’ve just walked past 55 George Street, between Portland Street and the defunct Odeon cinema, and the building’s barbed-wire-covered fence is now covered in AMEC signs.
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