The Cookham Tunnel Discovery
An artists impression:
It is believed that the origin of the tunnel may have been in the second half of the reign of Edward IV in around 1475. At that time the Abbot of Cirencester was responsible for maintaining the village ferry but there are records that he allowed "his boat called a barge at Cokeham to be ruinous whereby people cannot cross". Although it was subsequently repaired the tolls were excessive. In 1475 Edward IV withdrew from an invasion of France in return for 75,000 crowns and a pension of 50,000 gold crowns a year. A company of sappers from Cookham received part of this bounty for their stout service in undermining French fortifications in the siege of Boulogne and on their return resolved to spend some of their money and time for the benefit of the village and to make its inhabitants independent of the depredations of the hated Abbot. Hence the account of the first Tunnel under the Thames which was just wide enough "for a hande carte to passe" or for two laden men to squeeze past each other. Traces of the tunnel may remain but it is thought to have been seriously damaged in the great flood of 1763.
More than one?
The tunnel, now under the Cookham Bridge was not necessarily the only or the biggest tunnel in the Cookham area. It would seem that during the civil war there may have been a network of tunnels in the area concealing Royalist gold and stores and allowing secret passage under the Thames at several points.
"Tunnel starts just under topsoil"
It has been revealed by a local historian that the tunnel begins just underneath the topsoil on Sutton Road. He is determined to prove his discovery and is calling out for help from local residents to begin digging up the road. If correct he declares excitedly that "This could become the new route for traffic, we won't need to use the Bridge ever again!"
So far when questioned local residents are "stunned" by the news of a Tunnel.
More news on this amazing discovery will be posted online as soon as it becomes available. If you have anything to add or wish to follow the story as it happens please join the Cookham Tunnel discussions!