City of Caves is a visitor attraction in Nottingham based on a network of caves, carved out of sandstone that have been variously used over the years as a tannery, public house cellars, and as an air raid shelter. The caves are listed as a scheduled monument by Historic England under the name Caves at Drury Hill, Drury Hill being the medieval street under which they were formerly located until it was demolished to make way for the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. The newer City of Caves name refers to the fact that the city of Nottingham has hundreds of man-made caves, which have been in use for over a thousand years.
The City of Caves was accessed from the upper level of the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre but can currently be accessed from Garner's Hill due to construction works in the Broadmarsh Centre, scheduled to finish in 2021. The attraction, part of the National Justice Museum, has been run by the Egalitarian Trust since opening 2004. 1
What makes this place unique is the fact that there is no other area throughout the whole of Britain that has more man-made caves than the one located in the city of Nottingham. Known as the “City of Caves,” the area which is still being explored by archaeologists consists of a complex of around 500 caves carved out of sandstone, believed to have existed for as long as the city or even earlier than that.
From dungeons to cellars, the eerie underground caves have been used for various purposes, including brewhouses for beer. It’s no wonder that many caves were used as brewhouses since the temperature inside the caves created ideal conditions for the purpose. As a matter of fact, the caves under the Nottingham Castle were used for brewing and storing beer.
Most recently, the caves were used as air raid shelters during World War II. They played a crucial role in saving the lives of many citizens of Nottingham during the Nottingham Blitz, which occurred on May 8, 1941, and up to this day, it remains Nottingham’s biggest raid. The Germans dropped over 1,000 bombs on the city, killing 200 people and injuring several hundred more. But many people escaped to the centuries-old caves, which were the best possible air raid shelters the city could afford during the darkest hours of the war.
The citizens of Nottingham and archaeologists keep discovering more and more man-made caves every year and over the past decade, more than 100 caves have been discovered. It is believed that there are over 200 caves under Nottingham yet to be discovered.2