The Man Who Built Tunnels

bookshelves: spring-2015, play-dramatisation, published-2007, radio-4, music

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read on April 03, 2015

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0076xlv

Description: Natalia Power’s haunting tale of unrequited love. The 79-year-old Duke of Portland receives a visitation from a once famous opera singer.

From wiki: William John Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland (12 September 1800 – 6 December 1879), styled Lord William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck before 1824 and Marquess of Titchfield between 1824 and 1854, was a British army officer and peer, most remembered for his eccentric behavior. A recluse who preferred to live in seclusion, he had an elaborate underground maze excavated under his estate at Welbeck Abbey near Clumber Park in North Nottinghamshire.

The Duke’s father, believing there would be a shortage of oak, had hundreds of trees planted. His son used the wood to construct a complex of underground rooms and tunnels.[2] The tunnels under the estate were reputed to have totalled 15 mi (24 km), connecting various underground chambers and above-ground buildings. They included a 1,000 yd (910 m) long tunnel between the house and the riding house, wide enough for several people to walk side by side. A more roughly constructed tunnel ran parallel to this for the use of his workmen. A 1.25 mi (2 km) long tunnel ran north-east from the coach house, to emerge at the South Lodge, which was supposedly wide enough for two carriages. It had domed skylights (readily visible on the surface) and by night was illuminated by gaslight.

The underground chambers – all of which were painted pink – included a great hall 160 ft (49 m) long and 63 ft (19 m) which was originally intended as a chapel, but which was instead used as a picture gallery and occasionally as a ballroom. The ballroom reportedly had a hydraulic lift that could carry 20 guests from the surface and a ceiling that was painted as a giant sunset. The Duke never organised any dances in the ballroom.

Other subterranean rooms included a 250 ft (76 m) long library, an observatory with a large glass roof, and a vast billiards room.

Duke …… Alec McCowen
Adelaide …… Emma Fielding
John Hargreaves …… Anthony Glennon
Lodge keeper …… Stephen Critchlow
Wheatley …… Kim Wall
Maisie …… Ella Smith

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