Part of a digger can still be seen poking above ground at the site after it plunged into what is now believed to be catacombs created by medieval monks. Pictures: David Lowndes

Catacombs discovery means Peterborough’s new university development may now have to move underground

A digger plunged through what appeared to be a sinkhole on the site of Peterbrough’s planned university this week before disappearing into a large underground chamber.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 9:59 am

No-one was hurt in the dramatic incident but it is believed some machinery was seriously damaged.

Workmen immediately halted construction and the university called in leading historian Prof Trent O’Learyul whose team of specialist archaeologists uncovered a network of catacombs leading back towards the city’s Cathedral.

Early work suggests that the catacombs housed a huge underground brewery used by the ancient order of Camraciscan monks who traded their potent brews across the region.

The shock discovery means the site has been covered by a special order under Section 12 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and it is understood the area must now be fully excavated.

No official comment has yet been made on the discovery but the PT understands that planners believe the work could delay the university project by years and to minimise the delay much of the new build could now be accommodated underground in the area which will be cleared by the catacombs excavation.

It is believed the Students Union area could be sited inside the medieval brewery store.

It emerged today (April 1) that passages leading back to the cathedral have been discovered and appear to have remained largely intact.

At a press conference today Prof O’Learyrul said: “It appears that long held rumours of tunnels under the cathedral are true. Parchments found show that the powerful ale brewed by the Camraciscans under their charismatic French leader Abbot Laforpilo became widely acclaimed and the tunnels and underground brewery allowed the monks to transport large quantities on barges using the nearby River Nene.

“This is a tremendously exciting discovery and we look forward to digging deeper to find out much more about this extraordinary site and the mythical ale that this secretive order produced.

“We believe that many of the descendants of the Camraciscans still live in the Peterborough area to this day, perhaps explaining the affinity with the Embankment area and strong ale.”

Page 1 of 2