Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet



Bures Hidden Tunnels

No 1.
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.

borley placeBorley Place
Another runs beneath the river Stour from Bures Church (TL906340) to Wormingford, and was allegedly used by Mary Tudor.2
bures churchBures Church

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 1500s.


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 Anglia'.



1. 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.14 (Nov.1954-Oct.1955), p.54.
2. http://www.foxearth.org.uk/BorleyRectory/Tunnels.htm
4. http://www.parishchurch.co.uk/ 

smallbridge hallSmallbridge Hall

st stephens chapelSt Stephens Chapel

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.


borley rectory


The Bulls at Borley Rectory
by Andrew Clarke
copyright 2000

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 ?

Although 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

harry price

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 Bures.
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
Other Ref:- http://thethomsons.aussieland.net/bull.htm