Describing itself as “one of the UK’s largest mixed-use destinations outside London,” the Mailbox Birmingham is a busy place. Jam-packed with restaurants, activities and offices. Most days, and nights, the place is heaving with people and has become a symbol of Brum’s fast-paced nature. But did you know that beneath the Mailbox runs a secret underground tunnel?
It’s a lot quieter down there than above ground and, long abandoned, serves no purpose anymore. But up until 1998, before it moved to Aston, the Mailbox was the Royal Mail’s sorting office. Built during the ‘70s, the 400 m-long tunnel was used to transport cages full of mail to and from New Street Station’s Platform 12. After the sorting office moved, however, the tunnel has remained out of use.
Of course, when you hear the words “secret underground tunnel”, the rumours start flying around. Some of our favourites include the jewellers who used to post diamonds to themselves on a Friday because it was cheaper than putting them in a vault over the weekend, and the belief that the New Street end is haunted. (New Street Station was built on the grounds of a cemetery.)
But the biggest question is: Can you visit this secret underground tunnel? Unfortunately, you can’t just wander into the Mailbox and head down. (It doesn’t appear on any maps.) But there have been previous opportunities to visit. In 2021, Network Rail held a public ballot as part of Birmingham Heritage Week. Earlier this year, the local charity Love Brum hosted a ‘Hidden Brum’ tour of the tunnel. There’s currently nothing lined up for visitations, but keep an eye out as the hunger to visit is obviously huge.
What other secret underground tunnels run beneath Birmingham?
The soft sandstone underneath Birmingham is the reason you’ll never see an underground network like London’s in the West Midlands. The area can’t take extensive tunnelling. But there is a small number of tunnels running under Birmingham.
Between the Jewellery Quarter and Southside, the BT Tunnel Network includes a nuclear hideout and was designed to sustain Britain’s communications after a nuclear attack. There’s another secret underground tunnel between the Steelhouse Lane lock-up (now known as the West Midlands Police Museum) and the Victoria Law Courts. It allowed those being tried to be escorted to court without fear of attack from the street.
Last year, an underground passageway was also discovered outside The Old Crown, Birmingham’s oldest pub, which leads to the basement. Some speculated it was linked to the infamous Peaky Blinders and was used to smuggle everything from jewels to beer to bodies out of the pub. But the most likely story, it was just used for coal…