History | March 8, 2021 12:56 pm

Power Company Discovers Medieval Tunnel System at Tintern Abbey in Wales

An everyday task sparked a historical discovery

Tintern Abbey in Wales
Luke Jerram's installation Museum of the Moon at Tintern Abbey in Chepstow, Wales.
Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images

For students of medieval history and architecture, the ruins of Tintern Abbey in Wales are an evocative sight. Distinctive in their own right, they’ve also inspired other artistic achievements; more recently, Tintern Abbey was the site of a visually striking art installation. But the latest piece of news from the site doesn’t have to do with the structure itself or anything inside of it — instead, a group of historians are now fascinated by the discovery of something below it.

The BBC reports that a group of technicians from Western Power Distribution came upon a system of underground tunnels while they were moving an electric pole. The workers consulted ordinance survey maps, but found no record of the tunnels, and thus reached out to Cadw, Wales’s historic environment service. Currently, the electrical work is on hold while the tunnels are explored more thoroughly.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the tunnels are about four feet high. The workers who first found them initially thought it was a naturally occurring cave, but gradually realized that this was something made by people.

Now begins the process of learning more about the tunnel, which may echo nearby Angiddy Brook. The Smithsonian article notes that locals were as surprised by this discovery as the electrical workers, making this a bona fide historical mystery. Let’s hope for a fascinating solution.

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