Tunnels and Caves at Ingress Abbey

 

What a fascinating place. Ingress Abbey and its Coach House are in Greenhithe, Kent. The Abbey is a Grade II listed building, now a private residence. Its story goes back to 1363, when Edward III gave it to the Bevis family. The current building is a Neo-Gothic, Jacobean style country House, built around 1833 for Alderman James Harmer, a London lawyer. The architect for the project was Charles Moreing. His work on the house followed on from the previous design of the estate grounds by Capability Brown in 1763. I visited the Abbey site on 20th June 2018.

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There is an entry in Charles Moreing’s notes adding an additional £120,000 on to the original budget, to pay for ‘the construction of follies, tunnels, grottoes, and hermit’s caves’. Ingress Abbey abounds with tunnels and caves. The geology of the area being largely chalk, lends itself well to tunnelling.

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The Monkswell Tunnel is allegedly haunted and leads to a semi-circular vaulted chamber, where is located a well, previously used by monks (hence ‘Monkswell’). Here’s me standing outside the business end of Monkswell Tunnel and also a photo of the well, which appears to be covered by a circular grating (photo taken at arm’s length through a locked, barred gate).

The Cave of Seven Heads pictured below, is under the Fastrack bus road, and lies close to the former gatehouse to the estate.

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Set into the chalk cliffs is the bricked-up entrance to the Georgian Wall Tunnel (aka Georgian Garden Tunnel or the South Tunnel). This is located in a wild overgrown area at the end of Park Cliff Road. It is not accessible but with a bit of imagination, can be seen from the park. This tunnel was used as an air raid shelter in WW2.

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The Coach House  Tunnel runs from the main house to the Coach House. This tunnel is still in service although locked. I am hoping for a visit next week

The Grange Tunnel emerges 200 metres south of the main house, in the Grange folly. The Grange is in good order and so I’m assuming that its tunnel is too. Hopefully I can explore it next week.

The Grange has a minor road running through its arch.

There is a flintstone arch shelter with a bench, installed in 1763 as part of Capability Brown’s work. This is known as the Lovers’ Arch.

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Legend has it that there is a tunnel leading from the main house all the way to the River Thames, this would be a distance of at least 300 metres. The only viable route would be via the avenue opposite the front of the house. I could find no evidence of a tunnel emerging anywhere on the river bank.

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The house in about 1917

This blog on Ingress Abbey is still very much ‘work in progress’ and I have more research to do. I hope to visit Ingress Abbey in the next week or so to view the tunnels at first hand. I would particularly like to ascertain whether the tunnel to the River Thames is myth or legend. Watch this space 🙂