Such an exciting discovery, says High Street expert as scanners get set to probe secret tomb

The site at Saint Mary's Close car park, next to the Old Town Hall, where the discovery was made.
The site at Saint Mary's Close car park, next to the Old Town Hall, where the discovery was made.

An expert on the history of Hemel Hempstead is intrigued as to what may lie inside a secret chamber discovered under the pavestones of the Old Town.

Planned refurbishment works to the High Street, which include transforming the road into a one-way system, have been part-suspended following the mysterious discovery under the Saint Mary’s Close car park.

Elizabeth Buteux of the Hemel Hempstead Local History and Museum Society, and author of Time’s Highway: The High Street, Hemel Hempstead, said: “It is very exciting, and we as a society are always interested in local history. We will be following the progress to see what turns up.

“I used to live in the High Street, and all sorts of rumours used to fly around about secret tunnels used by Henry VIII, but I have never found any evidence of that. I really couldn’t say what the tomb might contain.”

A radar scan of the area is due to take place this week. Specialist equipment, the likes of which were used to unearth 15th century king Richard III in a Leicester car park last year, will be put into action at the site, which was last developed during Victorian times.

Arun Kataria of St Albans Diocese, which controls St Mary’s Church and the yard over which the High Street was partly built, said: “Clearly, for some considerable time since the 19th century, there has been an edifice over this part of the churchyard.

“It has only just been discovered, and I imagine if no-one had done any more work to the area it would have remained a piece of buried history. But these are early days at the moment.

“We are rather taken by surprise by the whole thing.”

Civil engineering contractor Jackson, carrying out the works to the Old Town on behalf of Herts County Council and Dacorum Borough Council, is confident there will be no delays to the refurbishment programme.