The Dogleg, The Rise & The Chimney

To the right of the entrance to the area by the underground water course – the River Styx as Doc Paget called it – is an entrance that was, in Doc Paget’s day, completely filled with soil and impassable. Robert Temple is seen here at the entrance to what is called ‘The Dogleg’ because of its turn, which is around and up to reach a point just above ‘The Chimney’.

The Dogleg

Able now to look back at the start of the Dogleg, we can see that the Dogleg actually straddles where the Roman wall was built. So we can only conclude that the Dogleg and the passage beyond were constructed after the Roman blocking-off of the tunnel. Doc, probably correctly, suggested that a later revival of tunnel use was undertaken.

The passage through the Styx itself was probably found to be blocked by the time of this revival – the water had perhaps risen dramatically. So, faced with an impassable route to the far landing – it was all now flooded – a new way up to the Sanctuary had to be constructed.

The start of the Rise. One might at first think this battered-through, rough-hewn, side tunnel was a robber’s attempt to hunt for treasure. The lamp niches continue in the walls. The walls we shall see from now on are all in natural hewn rock, there is no more Roman cocciopesto cement lining to be seen.

A nightlight candle can be seen in a lamp niche here, with its wrapping lying on the floor. Candles were lit by Olivia Temple for the 2003 documentary. Olivia was mortified to find out that when the tunnels were investigated in 2014 nothing had been removed. Olivia had been assured by a site custodian that they would clean it all up once filming was finished. Peter Knight and Graziano Ferrari have now systematically removed the débris. 

The Dogleg, The Rise & The Chimney

The Chimney

The Chimney is a brick-lined feature. Above the start of the Styx was a Roman tile set into the roof, which Doc Paget and Keith Jones removed. Doc was too old and frail, but the younger Jones was agile enough to climb through this hole, which they later named ‘The Chimney’.

By shovelling the soil that was blocking the start of the dogleg back down through this chimney, both Keith Jones and Doc were able to enjoy a slightly more comfortable way up in future.

In the dark, lit only by the dim flashlights available in the 1960s, this was quite a feat of dedication – clearing the Dogleg of its blockage.

Keith Jones’s efforts do account, however, for much of the large quantity of loose material existing down at The Styx today. This has been greatly added to by people scrambling further up the passage since his day.

Michael Baigent, looking up The Chimney during his visit in 2001.

An enormous amount of very loose material still exists around the top of the chimney, falling down from above, and this area is extremely hazardous. One false slip here can drop you through the Chimney, resulting in very real injuries and a problematic journey back to daylight.

Looking up from The Styx. If this was once open, as opposed to being shut with the tile that Paget and Jones found, was its purpose to carry heat away from the start of The Styx? If so, this is completely at variance with the idea of conveying steam to the Roman baths.

The steam channel idea is seeming less plausible with every turn. Of course it is crazy to think that, even if the steam was boiling, it could heat baths 170 metres away. But if it was boiling, then who could build a chimney here without dying in the process?

By the chimney top, looking back at the Dogleg. Both ascent and descent are very cramped. It is only passable at all because Keith Jones cleared a way down by shovelling the soil down the chimney

Another view. There is a very small ‘pocket’ or space just to left of the chimney, a flat area. It is easy to imagine the three-headed dog Cerberus chained up here, making eerie noises above those about to drop into The Styx below. With the echoes through the tunnels, any dog would sound as if it had three heads.

The Rise

The doorway at the top of The Rise
The doorway at the top of The Rise

Having arrived at the top of the Chimney, by way of the Dogleg, a turn to the right confronts us with The rise, a short but steep passage leading to somewhere directly above the water course.

One slip here and it is a sheer drop down the chimney to The Styx down below.

The official story describing a single simple steam channel feeding Roman baths a long way away is looking more improbable, as we shall lose much of our valuable steam up The Rise here. What exactly is going on? And why is there a doorway here? We can clearly see two lines in white which would have sealed a door frame in place.

Where has all the loose soil and stones come from? If there is a doorway here the passage is likely to be human height, so there is perhaps a metre or so (3’3″) of loose material under our feet.

Doc Paget claimed to have cleared enough away at one point to confirm there are steps underneath the soil. All traces of his efforts will have been covered over by material subsequently falling down, in subsequent years.

If there are steps, then these again suggest regular human use. It’s a massive effort to cut steps into the rock, just to hew out a steam channel. But steam here can play no part in the Roman baths scenario, it’s headed in the wrong direction.

A last look back at the doorway, from above
A last look back at the doorway, from above

The rise on the left slightly undercuts S120 on the right as it leads up from the chimney hole, emphasising the crude utilitarian nature of this feature. It’s existence here renders the approach of S120 to the sanctuary very hazardous. If it were not there the approach would be much simpler.

Let us venture further into this place of mystery.

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