To begin with I’d like to state that I would love there to be a lake under Burton upon Trent that is not only easily accessible but also navigable by people; imagine the interest and the possible tourist attraction! When such a claim was made on Facebook last week I wanted to do some digging (pardon the pun) into the mystery. Are we walking over caves that rival those in North Derbyshire, is this an urban myth or is it somewhere in between?
The claim goes that the access point was in the yard of the Staffordshire Knot on Station Street, although the pub has long since gone photographic evidence shows it stood next to the Gurkha Curry Lounge dead opposite the old County Court building.
C.C. Owen’s “Burton upon Trent: The Development of Industry” has a map of the principle boreholes and wells of Burton, number 74 is designated “Staffordshire Knot” meaning that there was / is a Borehole in the right place, Owen then tells us this was sunk by Salt & Co. c.1870 and that water was found at 95 feet below ground level, that’s a long way down! So yes there is a Borehole at the Staffordshire Knot that has water at the bottom, but would a man be able to climb down the hole?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a Borehole as “a hole made by boring … a deep vertical hole of small diameter bored into the earth to ascertain the nature of the underlying strata or to obtain water.” This is exactly what Thomas Salt been doing in c.1870, looking for water to brew with.
So Boreholes; how big are they and are they the same as a Well? On groundwateruk.org they state a Well is wide enough to allow a man to dig it, 95 feet seems like a lot of work! To reach that depth it would be a Borehole that are smaller in diameter and require machinery like a drilling rig (this was in the 1870’s so it would have either been hand, horse or steam powered). Hardly likely that it would be wide enough for a person to pass down?
So from this I can’t see there being a hole big enough for a person to access the water below, let alone one big enough to get a boat down. I also wonder how they’d breathe down there?
There is an underground boat in Burton, this is accessed via the basement of 107 Station Street (aka Allied Breweries Offices, B Block, Punch, Spirit or if you are being precise Allsopp’s New Brewery). This was built in 1858 on land next to the railway line, but there was a problem; a brook called the Moor Mill Dam which crossed the land from Horninglow Street at Brook Street running towards the foot of the Station Bridge. To overcome this Allsopp built a tunnel over it and buried it. The tunnel needed to be checked for subsidence etc. periodically so a boat floats on the brook to enable this to be done.I think the story of the Staffordshire Knot lake and the Allsopp boat have become confused. Pity as I really wanted it to be true.
The burden of proof is therefore with those making the claim, so as much as I want to believe; photographic evidence is needed.