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The hidden tunnels and the hidden gem

Cover image by Scott Merrylees.

The Old Vicarage - Tony Worrall, 2018, Flickr

The Old Vicarage is a large building a stone's throw away from the Trinity Walk shopping centre in Wakefield. The building dates back to 1349 (although not in appearance) and is owned by the Wakefield County Conservative Association. Currently, it is home to independent shops, one of which is quite eclectic.

The Hidden Gem is a gothic, pagan and independent nick-nacks shop which has recently been established at the top floor of the Old Vicarage in Wakefield. Upon seeing the sign posted outside, and with us being there in the first place to visit Division 24 (conveniently next to each other) we decided to investigate.

Upon entering, we found Gaynor Haycock, owner of the Hidden Gem, painting at one of the many tables in her shop. She creates some of the pieces which are hung around the shop .

Inside you are met with the work in progress of a giant curling tree, painted by one of Gaynor's friends, and lying at the bottom of the trunk is an old gravestone of a boy from Wakefield dating back to the 1700s. She explained that it was donated to her by the landlord, as well as another of similar age, this time from a little girl, that lies behind the counter.

From The Hidden Gem at the Old Vicarage Facebook page, an example of the work in progress of the tree

After taking us around a tour of the shop, she stopped beside a corner of shelving units and began to tell us of the spirits she could feel within the store; some children playing around the shop, as well as an older spirit, who she presumed was the priest, but definitely a friendly adult character.

Gaynor was previously located in the basement shop space in the Old Vicarage, in which she experienced lots of paranormal activity. She explained that she used to come into the shop on the mornings and find things thrown about the floor... it couldn't have just fallen off... and it couldn't have been an intruder, as the door was locked. Over time, she began to feel a dark energy within her shop, which made her feel uneasy.

During a trip to London later that year, she saw a medium, who knew about the dark energy within her shop. She asked her at the time if she had water flowing underneath the building, as this is an attraction for darker energy. An attraction for nymphs. At the time, Gaynor wasn't sure, but she later learned that the Old Vicarage was built on top of a Spring - which was also inspiration for the name of the road it lies on!

Nymphs are categorised as Fair Folk, and have their place in Greek Mythology as maiden fae associated with rivers and forests. Like fairies, they are renown for their mischievous behaviour and childlike playfulness. Although, they do have a generous side if shown respect in their spaces. Perhaps these nymphs have been angry that their home has been built on top of?

The medium advised her to either move out, or move up, and with that, the Hidden Gem was relocated to the top floor. Gaynor now runs the shop with a friendlier group of ghouls, the children and the adult figure, all of which don't lack in their own paranormal activity.

She has found herself spending late evenings and nights at the shop before, painting the walls with friends, and hearing footsteps coming up the stone staircase and stopping outside the door. There was also a case of staying late and her grandson seeing an aparition within the room, unable to rationalise it by checking the lighting and the dust levels within the room. "There's usually not a lot that happens within the day, but from around 7, 9 o'clock time to midnight, that's when all the activity starts to get busy."

But thats not the only perculiar aspects of the Old Vicarage...

She explained that there were accounts from various neighbours, of tunnels leading to and from various buildings within Wakefield town centre; the hospital, prison, Chapel, masonic Hall and the Old Vicarage itself. Gaynor also mentioned an eagerness for them to be covered up and filled in too.

Whether this is down to hiding stuff, or foundational issues we are not to know, as most of these discoveries were from construction work nearby.

It is worth noting that a 2009 article written by the Wakefield Express on thr discovery if the tunnels was quoted as saying that "the building and surrounding car park are linked to a network of tunnels, believed to be used by non-conformists after the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662.

This quote has been found on a Wikapedia page of the Old Vicarage, but upon clicking, is no longer available on the Wakefield Express website. It roughly follows the same story Gaynor told, of a man's dog falling through a carpark construction hole into a tunnel system. The dog's owner went to retrieve him and saw it for himself. A lot of mysteries to fill in with this one, but we'll keep you updated if we find the full story.

The likelihood of a network of tunnels beneath the city is a highly likely one, as Gaynor explained that many of the dead from the hospital would have (presumably and preferably) been transported via tunnels to the graveyard outside the Chapel, to keep the sights away from the living.

Wakefield Unitarian Chapel increased its tours to twice a month to their catacombs, with a rise in availability and volunteers in April of 2023. The 18th century tunnel system is home to the graves of influential and historical politicians, writers, feminists and egalitarians.

Every time we visit Wakefield, we are met with historical discoveries and personal accounts, which is helped by the extroverted accounts we have with people like Gaynor. If you are interested in the paranormal, the historical, or awake thinking, she is definitely a person to sit down and have a tea or coffee with.

If you would like to check out The Hidden Gem, you can do so through the link to the Facebook page here:

And for some more Wakefield tunnel information, check out the Wakefield Express article here:

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