A tunnel is said to run from a Bures shop, later a café (Two
Teas), to the site of much-haunted Borley Rectory (TL846429), 8.5
miles away in Essex, while another heads from somewhere in Bures
to Borley Place, an old house opposite the Rectory site.
A tunnel from Clare is supposed
to connect with this one somewhere in the Rectory grounds.
Another runs beneath the river Stour
from Bures Church (TL906340) to Wormingford, and was allegedly used
by Mary Tudor.2
Yet another passage is said
to go from the Chapel Barn (also known as St. Stephen's Chapel,
TL918345) just outside Bures, to the moated Smallbridge Hall (TL929332)
a couple of miles downriver, that was built by the Waldegraves in
The Chapel was consecrated in 1218
by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, and stands on the
site of a chapel where King Edmund was traditionally crowned by
Bishop Humbert on Christmas Day 855 AD. See also 'Edmund of East
1. 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.14 (Nov.1954-Oct.1955), p.54.
by Andrew Clarke
copyright 2000, 2003, 2004
In the summer of 1987, the cellars of Borley
Place flooded after a heavy storm. This should have ended all speculation
about the purpose of the 'tunnel' that had been discovered crossing the
road in a north-south direction between Borley place and the barn next
to the rectory. It was not a tunnel, or a store for treasure, but a storm-water
culvert, called locally a 'wellum', and very effective it would have been
in keeping Borley Place dry had it not become blocked and damaged.
It is difficult to make very much of the
legend of the tunnel uniting the monastery at Borley with the one at Bures.
Of course, there were no monasteries in either place, and the tunnel would
be an engineering feat even today. The story seems to have been invented,
by the younger Bull sisters. There are similar stories around that involve
either monks or smugglers and that link other unlikely locations in East
Anglia too, so it may be that the story was borrowed from elsewhere. We
can now be fairly sure where this particular legend came from. In the
neighbouring parish of Glemsford, on the other side of the Stour valley,
is a much stronger legend of a tunnel, ghost and monk.
There are many Essex legends of tunnels. The Bull sisters came up with
the absurd story of a tunnel from Borley to Bures nunnery.
A better known legend, which may have been the inspiration for this story,
is the tunnel from Wormingford, running beneath the Stour to Bures Church,
and used by 'Bloody Mary' when she went to church.
Ed:- there seems to be some confusion
here between Wormingford and Smallbridge. Smallbridge is on the Suffolk
side and would not require funneling under the Stour
Harry Price, from The Most Haunted House
in England p26
Harry Price (17 January 1881 29
March 1948) was a British psychic researcher and author.
The remains of a portion of an underground
tunnel can be seen in the farmyard of Borley Rectory. Apparently
it had caved in at some period in the remote past. It is impossible
to trace it very far, and no one appears to know for what distance
it is blocked. ... portions of the tunnels -or a tunnel - have been
discovered in various places in a direct line between Borley and
Bures, a township seven miles from Borley, on the River Stour, and
partly in Essex and partly in Suffolk. ... Whether this tunnel-of
small, ancient bricks-was used as a means of escape from some possible
danger, or for some military purpose; or whether it was constructed
as a purely domestic arrangement between the monastery and nunnery,
is a matter of conjecture.
I have been told that the entrance
to a second tunnel, or perhaps the entrance to a branch of the Borley-Bures
tunnel, is still extant in the farmyard of Borley Place, the ancient
house opposite the Rectory. A tunnel from Clare is supposed to meet
the one from Bures somewhere in the Rectory grounds.
The Bulls at Borley
by Andrew Clarke
The Bull household when Harry Bull(Rector from 1897)was rector seemed
to have been fascinated by ghosts. His daughters seem to also be implicated
in keeping the stories in the public interest
We know today these stories were nonsense. There never was a Monastery
or Convent in Borley as described in many of the Bures Tunnel stories.
The famous 'Tunnel' under the road at Borley
Rectory, is shown in this
picture with Len Sewell in 1957 showing how it could never have been
designed for human use. Actually, it is a storm-water culvert draining
the cellars of Borley Place
If there were a tunnel from Bures to Borley
it would have meant digging through undulating countryside for 8.5 miles.
I doubt whether this could be achieved today even with modern boring techniques,
let alone back in the early part of the century.
What about the ventilation and drainage ?
Harry Price mentioned he found sections of tunnels at Borley,
one must remember he was a psychic researcher and author.
It was in his interest to keep these
stories flourishing to keep him in public view. It was also good
for his prolific book sales
If there were a tunnel from Bures to Wormingford
it would involve excavating under the River Stour. Before it became Navigable
with the construction of Locks etc it was known as the fastest flowing
river in England. This was due to the steep drop in river level from its
source at Haverhill down to Manningtree.
Digging under the Stour would have been impossible with the techniques
they had at their disposal.
When the railway arrived in the mid 1840`s
it would have run across the route of the Borley Tunnel. No records indicate
the contractors ever came across a tunnel in their path.
Where the Stour Valley rises at Henny and
Twinstead it reaches something in excess of 60 -70ft above the level at
How on earth would the tunnellers have coped with this depth.
It has also come to light that may other
large buildings in and around Bures (ie, Mount Bures Hall) have also found
evidence of tunnels on their property. In all cases these were extremely
short in length and were either a form of "priest
hole" or more likely just a "storm drain"
Research by Alan Beales, 29/11/09