This is possibly Mumbai's best-kept secret and most certainly the best shortcut to reach the Gateway, Churchgate or the Blue Gate from St Georges Hospital on P DeMello Road.
Two Mumbai Mirror reporters on Thursday discovered an over 240-year-old tunnel tucked under the St Georges Hospital.
The 1.5 km tunnel, now full of muck and sea water, starts under Ward 5 of the hospital and has exits at the Gateway, the Blue Gate and Churchgate.
1. PWD workers stand next to the trap door leading to the tunnel at St George�s Hospital at ward no 5
With its lone entrance, covered by a wooden hatch now, plonked right in the middle of the Swine Flu ward, the tunnel for many years has been a source of great curiosity and many unfounded stories in the hospital.
The wooden hatch on Thursday was raised and a ladder lowered into the tunnel to let the two reporters explore its depths. But they found that they could not go beyond a few metres.
The tunnels three arms lay blocked with brick-and-mud walls. There was knee deep water in the tunnel and hospital staff said the level would rise as monsoon progresses.
2. Mumbai Mirror reporter Sudhir Suryawanshi uses a ladder to get down to the 1.5-km long tunnel at the hospital
Historians say since the Dutch, the French and the Portuguese posed a constant threat, the Britishers built a network of tunnels starting from St Georges Fort, present days St Georges Hospital.
These tunnels were used to ferry injured soldiers, arms and ammunitions and also as escape routes in event of an attack.
Urban historian Sharada Dwivedi said she had come across the St Georges Hospital tunnel during her research on Mumbai's past. There are many tunnels from the British period which run through the Fort area.
St George�s Hospital tunnel, the exit points of which are Churchgate, Gateway and Blue Gate
Georges hospital tunnel may be connected to Apollo Bunder (Gateway of India), Churchgate and Blue Gate. These secret passageways tell us a lot about our past and they need to be protected and preserved, she said. The tunnel has tiny skylights that also let some fresh air in, not enough though. The tunnel smells of rotten flesh, enough to make anybody sick in a matter of minutes.
Former superintendent of St Georges Hospital, Dr K N Varade, said he got the tunnel door opened once during his tenure.
The wooden plank covering the tunnels opening was damaged. I got it fixed. We did not talk about the tunnel because we didn't want the Archaeological Survey of India to step in and take over this part of the hospital, he said.
3. The 18th century tunnel below the ward has law arched ceilings with barely enough room for an adult to stand erect
4. One of the exits of the tunnel which is now partially submerged under sea water and muck leads to St George�s Fort that�s next to Blue Gate
5. The ventilators that let light and fresh air to the tunnel which was used for ferrying injured soldiers and ammunition.