What Lies Beneath...
Below the Jewellery Quarter’s busy streets lies a labyrinth of underground passage ways. Dark, mysterious tunnels hidden from view and kept secret for many, many years.
During the 1950s, with the Cold War at its height, the government built a series of hardened, underground telephone exchanges. The Anchor Exchange was designed to provide telecommunications and even regional government in the event of nuclear attack. Its name refers to the nearby Assay Office and as you can imagine, it was top secret for many years.
Construction began in 1953, with the general public told that an underground railway was being built. Operational in 1957, the system was accessed from the rear of Telephone House and was strictly guarded. Below ground the labyrinth contained blast doors, plant rooms, sleeping quarters and mess rooms. The tunnel system is said to stretch out across the city centre and beyond.
The Anchor Exchange was only put on standby once, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. However its value waned as the Cold War came to an end. The tunnels still provide an important function as cable runs for the city, but the rising water table means they require constant pumping.