Department of Classics and Archaeology

City of Caves

Project summary

Archaeologists and historians from the University of Nottingham are bringing the city’s hidden history to life as part of the regeneration of the Broadmarsh area – currently one of the largest city centre redevelopment projects in Europe.

The City of Caves project mission is to make Nottingham’s famous underground caves a signature feature of the new development and to highlight Broadmarsh as a leading example of heritage-led place-making, vital to the growth of tourism and the visitor economy.

Historical photo of a person peering up from a vertical cave shaft.
Image from The Peverel Archaeological Group Annual Report (1951)

The City of Caves project is funded by the AHRC Place Programme, and is one of nine projects intended to support cultural regeneration and boost regional economies around the UK. This project brings together archaeologists and experts in urban history and landscape, to work with the consortium of partners currently leading the multi-million-pound redevelopment of the 20-acre Broadmarsh area, including the old 1970s shopping centre.

Do you have stories about Nottingham's caves?

Watch this video to find out more about Echoes: The City of Caves Oral History Project

A tour guide talking in the caves at The City of Caves visitor attraction

'Echoes': The City of Caves Oral History Project

Click here to find our more about Echoes: The City of Caves Oral History Project

City of Caves project outline

A team of researchers are carrying out extensive work on historical records and maps, archaeological data, photographic archives, and existing 3D laser scans of the caves which could be used in a new immersive VR caves experience. They are also identifying gaps in historical and geographical knowledge of the area that need to be filled. The work is feeding into the plans being drawn up by the Broad Marsh Development Partnership which includes Nottingham City Council, the Nottingham Project (the council’s place-making and branding initiative), Nottingham Museums and Galleries Service and the National Justice Museum.

The partnership capitalises on the city’s rich history in the design of the new public spaces and visitor attractions. From humble roots as an Anglo-Saxon settlement and later a Danelaw borough, Nottingham became an important royal outpost with its medieval castle which was eventually demolished in 1651. The city’s extensive network of manmade caves dates back 1000 years. These were carved into the soft sandstone underground and used as dwellings, workplaces, and storage spaces for many centuries.

The medieval ‘Broad Marsh’ was an important and busy waterside zone with a Franciscan friary and burial ground, but it later declined into an area of slum housing. These ancient streets were only cleared in the 1970s to make way for the modern Broadmarsh shopping centre, now partly demolished amid the ongoing development of the southern city centre.

Historical map of Nottingham. This is a complex image. Please email for more information. Quote City of Caves Map.
John Speed’s plan of the city of Nottingham, 1610, courtesy of Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham

Public outreach

In November 2022, we held a series of free events as a part of Being Human, the UK’s national festival of the Humanities. These included tours of caves at Wollaton Hall and the National Justice Museum’s City of Caves attraction, as well as a range of talks and community events. We are continuing to work with community groups and societies, such as the Nottingham Historical and Archaeological Society, Nottingham Civic Society and The Thoroton Society, to map local knowledge of the caves and the city’s street system before the 1970s Broadmarsh centre was built.

Do you have information about Nottingham’s caves you would like to share, or feedback on our project so far? Whether you are a community archaeologist, a cave owner, an independent researcher or have any information you would like to share, please get in touch with the project team.

Here is a series of images from the cave tours. You can click on the carousel images to enlarge them. Photographer: Marcus Holdsworth.

An adult and child ascending steps through a cave system.



Project findings

We will publish links to our project findings on this webpage when they are released in late 2023. In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter @UoNCaves or contact the project team.

Video Tour

A fly-through digital video of the Broadmarsh Caves based on previous laser scans: 


Department of Classics and Archaeology

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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