Spooky secret dating back nearly 800 years discovered underneath a VAPE SHOP and accessed only by a single hatch | The Sun

A SECRET crypt discovered underneath a vape shop has unlocked a hidden underground world.

A labyrinth of underground tunnels and vaults has been found beneath an historic Kent market town.

The spooky vault – thought to be part of an ancient monastery from the early 14th century – can only be accessed by one trapdoor in the back of this vape store.

Sam Jessop, 40, had no idea what lay beneath e-cigarette shop Evapo in the High Street of Maidstone, Kent when he joined as shop manager five years ago.

It wasn’t until he was asked to go through a trapdoor in the back of the shop and into the basement to take a gas reading that he discovered an incredible long-forgotten stone chamber.

With vaulted ceilings and walls crafted from Kentish ragstone, it seemed the cellar had once been part of an abbey.

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Sam said: “I started in this job five years ago and the basement was only accessed when they needed to get to the gas meter for readings.

“I decided to have a look round because I was curious and what I found down there was a bit of a shock.

“I decided to have a look round because I was curious and what I found down there was a bit of a shock.

“It was like walking into a church. It’s very well crafted – it’s not just a needs-must build – there’s some real stone-masonry work, with great attention to detail.”

After the initial shock of finding what appeared to be the remains of a monastery, Sam took a closer look at the basement – and noticed an array of curious adaptations made over the years.

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He said: “It’s a real hodgepodge of different periods. There’s stuff from the 1600s to 1700s, and then modern parts that have been added later on.

“For example, the ceilings are only four feet high, which is a lot shorter than other buildings of the same period, so I think the floor has been raised at some point, and it had drainage added in around 50 or 60 years ago.

“There’s also electrical cables down there, an old oil radiator, a big iron ring mounted in the ceiling, a fireplace, and what looks like some sort of grill.

“There’s all sorts of things here, there and everywhere.”


Despite managing the shop – which is believed to be one of the oldest in the town – for the last five years, Sam still knows little about the building’s history.

He added: “It’s still a bit of a mystery to me. As far as I’m aware it’s always been a business – it was an opticians for many years before we took over – but it could’ve been partly residential at one stage.

“I’m not entirely sure what it was built for originally.”

Sam has many theories as what the underground crypts may have been used for.

He said: “It could’ve been for nefarious purposes like smuggling or escape routes for gentry.

"But it may also have been used to dispose of bodies during the tuberculosis outbreak, as it would be somewhere where they couldn’t contaminate people.”

However, amateur historian and student Simon White, 42, believes the building may have had a much more mundane purpose after it was abandoned as a priory.

Simon has been working with Sam to uncover more about the shop’s fascinating past.

Simon said: “I’m sceptical about it being used to store bodies, although Maidstone did suffer several plagues, which is why the prison was moved to where it is today.

“It’s possible it was used for smuggling in later years but we don’t have any solid evidence for either of those theories.

“The fireplaces in these chambers suggest they were just used to heat up the rest of the building through chimneys.”

Simon discovered evidence the cellar was part of a priory built in the early 1300s after examining local records.

No one ever lived in the monastery and the underground crypt remained untouched, he said.

Simon added: “The history is so difficult to find so it’s an ongoing project, but if you look back at the records there’s mention of a priory being set up.

“I believe it got Royal approval, but I don’t think it was ever established. It didn’t seem to get populated with monks."

He said the history of the discovery is still unclear, explaining: “According to my research, it was built in 1331. The good quality Kentish ragstone is also an indicator of its age.

“If that’s confirmed, that means it’s older than the Archbishop’s Palace but very little is known about it.”

Simon believes the property was later used as a private house before becoming a shop with the arrival of commerce in Maidstone in the 15th century.

He added: “Maidstone was a very useful trading town so the ecclesiastical side of it got pushed aside.

It’s really mysterious.”

Astonishingly, Evapo isn’t the only shop in Maidstone with a mysterious stone chamber under its floorboards.

Through his research, former gardener Simon has also discovered vaults hidden beneath a nearby hairdressers, a barber shop, and an estate agent.

He believes these crypts would’ve been part of a wider network of basements and tunnels dating back nearly 700 years.

The curious historian said: “I’m aware of other shops in the area which have similar structures underneath them but I’m working on getting access to those.

“There’s a theory that tunnels ran underneath the town and were filled up, but I think lots of them still remain.

“I’m hoping that the more attention we can bring to this project, the more businesses come forward and let us take a look because this has never been properly researched before now.”

You can explore other mysterious discoveries from across the UK.

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