The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

A strange discovery


Photo: Underground wall

Photo: Underground wall

Today I decided to do my digging in the morning.

There seemed to be many more bricks this time. Three barrow loads to a square meter. I was day dreaming about digging up buried treasure. Then I dug up some hefty, rotten logs. These uncovered a paving slab. Suddenly things were looking interesting. Why would someone bury a paving slab under a lawn?

I prised up the slab with my fork to reveal a brick wall buried under the earth. There was no mortar between the bricks and an old drain pipe was set into the bottom of the wall.

Feeling like a latter day Howard Carter, I rushed up to the Rat Room to announce my discovery. Danny padded down in his slippers to examine the wall.

Ages ago when a young lad visited me claiming that the cottage belonged to him,  he mentioned that there had been a cellar.
“It constantly flooded. So in the end they blocked it up.”
We believed he was right. Certainly this winter the kitchen was unbelievably cold. We imagined a large block of frozen water under the kitchen floor. Most of the houses around here have a cellar. They have a tendency to flood and this can be resolved by putting a sump pump in the floor – these pumps are not very expensive and do the job well.

When I asked the lad where the entrance to the cellar was he waved his hand vaguely into the garden. There’s a small concrete area next to the barn where I assumed the entrance had been.

Was I looking at a wall of the cellar this morning? During my afternoon rest I considered filling in the hole with the ballast that I had dug up and growing short rooted plants in the area. But this evening I resolved to investigate further. I’ve never been very happy about living over a flooded cellar.

A dry cellar could be very useful for storing root vegetables in the winter. Or would I be opening up a can of worms?

  Leave a reply


  1. Magic Cochin

    Oooo! how intriguing. Take care, you don’t want your cottage to fall into a big hole!

    Talking to our neighbours it’s surprising how many have nuclear bunkers from the Cold War era, in their gardens!


  2. amalee issa

    Go for it. Take a sample of the bricks to your local authority Building Control officers and get them to identify the likely age of the structure – these guys know their stuff. Then dig. Time Team only has to go down a foot under grass to find Roman remains! Get digging you two.

    Amalee (wrapped up at 8pm at night with a glass of fizz and salted almonds.)

  3. I say be careful. My husband is a bricklayer but not here to take a look at the photo and I’m not sure he could help either way. I would dig, but in the historical archives of your town first. Also, you can always build a new and safe root cellar if you really wanted one.
    I do have a cellar. The walls suffer seepage, the seepage causes a smell in the house. The cellar is very old. We just built a new set of stairs going down to it. We have to power wash and then tuckpoint the cinder block this summer, break up some concrete areas of the floor and finally build a proper root cellar area. Its more upkeep.

  4. Toffeeapple

    Just be careful in there!

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