Friday, 13 December 2013

Underneath 8 Castle Gate

As part of A Walk Through the Underworld, our imaginative tour of Nottingham's caves, we walked along Castle Gate and paused outside number 8.

No. 8 Castle Gate hides an intriguing little cave, only big enough for two or three people at a time to enter, so we couldn't take our tour group in. However we did stop outside and think for a moment about the idea of what was beneath our feet, and I was able to describe the cave, having visited it a few times myself.

Standing outside no. 8, a grand and decorative mid century red brick building, one would never think there was a cave complex underneath. To access it, you enter the building through its large blue wooden doors under ornamental stone arches, walk through modern offices, down a long corridor, before being led into a rather nice library and meeting room, with dark wooden bookshelves and deep blue fabric upholstered chairs. In the corner of this room, behind a glass door, is a hole in the floor.

The hole is just big enough for one relatively slim person to get through. A tightly spiralled wrought iron staircase takes you down steeply to a completely different world.

8 Castle Gate's cave has several circular spaces adjoining the central area at the bottom of the steps. The walls are golden sandstone with red blemishes. There is a large circular pit on the right, a ledge around it just big enough for one person to circumnavigate.

On the left is total darkness, but investigation with a torch shows carved columns holding up the arched roof, standing in very still, deep green water surfaced with the fluffy flowers of algae.

I imagine hiding down here, the dampness and cramped conditions all around, a chamber untouched from past times (other than the introduction of a little lighting), listening in to the modern day administrative concerns in the meeting room directly above. A strange contrast of worlds and times; the cave a product of the hard labours of men and a remnant of the dirtiest of manual work, tanners worked here, whilst directly above in the manicured modern day the work is cerebral and clean.

The building is now occupied by the main administrative office of The Congregational Federation, who are obviously very proud of their little hidden gem. As a result of our contact with them, they have commissioned me to create a drawing of their cave to hang in the meeting room by the cave entrance. This has been my project for the last month, and is near completion. I should be able to install it early in the new year.

I'm really enjoying making the work and it has helped to keep my mind in contact with the whole experience of A Walk Through the Underworld. LJ and I are both so excited about launching our Box of Things at the event on 19th January. We hope you can join us.