A few drinks and a little idle curiousity have led to the discovery of a hidden chapel under a family home.
The Farla family were having a celebration on Good Friday when they decided to check out a metal grid in their Telford home in Shropshire.
Ever since Pat, 52, and Diane Farla, 43, moved into the detached Victorian building three years ago they’d wondered what lay behind the metre-long rectangle which lay alongside a wall.
After pulling it away they found a hole which was just big enough for Gareth Farla, 20, and his uncle Matthew Lathan, 25, to squeeze through.
Blinking in the darkness they found themselves in a small, eerie cellar which appears to look like a chapel.
In the centre of the room lay a wooden cross which appeared to have fallen down after rotting away.
Matthew said: ‘We only discovered it because we were drunkenly fooling around and decided to have a look at what was beneath the grid – It was amazing.
‘Everyone was hovering around with excitement.
‘The first thing we came across in the middle of the basement was an old, open chest and in it were old newspapers and bottles dating back to the 1930s.
‘There were also hooks hanging from the ceiling which could have been used to hang meat.
‘At one end of the cellar was a sort of mesh or cloth which was damp.
‘There were also some sort of brick seats around the walls which looked like something you might find in a church.’
The surprises continued as exploration went on and someone spotted some stairs at the back of the basement.
Gareth added: ‘When we spotted the stairs in the room we tried to find out where they led to.
‘There was more cardboard and we broke through that and it came out to a cupboard in our dining room.
‘It’s strange it’s been there and we had no idea. We were just storing the hoover and blankets, we couldn’t quite believe it.
‘At that point everyone else came in and saw it.
‘We’re not sure what the room was used for, but the crosses and layout suggest it might have been a chapel.
‘We didn’t like to touch the stuff too much as we would like someone to come and tell us what it is.’
The family plan to get in touch with local history groups who might be able to shed some light on their discovery.
The Farla said the deeds of the detached house dated from 230 years ago and they believe that at some point it had been used as a pub.
Richard Westwood Brookes, historical documents expert for nearby Shropshire auctioneers Mullocks, said: ‘If the deeds are over 230 years old and the room dates back to the 1700’s, there’s a chance it could have been used as a Catholic hideaway or for other nonconformist religious groups.
‘There’s a possibility a room like that could be used as a clandestine Catholic church as you couldn’t be a Catholic during that time – you would be persecuted and executed.
‘It may well have been a Catholic priest hole – but it all depends on what the age was.’
He added that if it had been built during World War II it could have been a type of bunker.
Mr Westwood Brookes said: ‘Churchhill had a secret army of hand-picked men who stayed behind and would launch a sabotage operation in case the Nazis won the war and ruled Britain.
‘They often stayed in underground bunkers similar to these.
‘They were treated as cowards because they stayed behind [instead of going to the front], when in fact they were the bravest of the brave – because if Hitler would have won, their life expectancy would have been about three weeks because locals would have ousted them to keep the peace with the Nazis.’
In addition to their underground discovery, the superstitious family think they may have released some sort of ghost or spirit after a mysterious photograph was taken shortly afterwards.
‘After we discovered the basement, we went back upstairs and were taking some pictures,’ said Gareth.
‘We took a picture of Matthew’s pregnant girlfriend Karen. When the pictures came out their was something white on the photo right by her belly.
‘My mother thinks it’s an orb, as the rest of the picture is clear apart from by her belly.
‘And my nan Peggy is quite superstitious and she thinks it could be something there. It could just be a coincidence, but it seems quite strange.’