Completed in 1799, The Dante Passage lead to the Ostergard Granite Quarry and was the main way for workers from the South end of Maundbury to get to their jobs within the quarry itself.
The original intent of the passage was to provide a trolley system for rock and debris removal. However, the stress of building the tunnel itself had weakened the surrounding passage walls and the fear was that the trolleys moving through it would eventually cause a major collapse of the whole structure.
Brave workers would take the risk of the passage collapse to avoid the additional time it would take to get up and over the mountain to the quarry.
The name Dante Passage was given to the tunnel by the builder, Andrew Shepherd - a lover of the works of Italian poet Dante Alighieri. He based the name off of one of his works:
"You shall leave everything you loved most: This is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first."
Shepherd committed suicide two years after the tunnels completion.
The workers thought that another work of Dante summed things up better after the Ostergard Quarry accident in August of 1831 - Inferno. A passage to hell.
When a massive explosion devistated the quarry, it was said that the boom echoed through the tunnel to South Maundbury, rattling windows and shattering the spirits of those who had family working in the quarry. Minor damage was reported and the passage was eventually walled off.
Tales of Dante Passage
• In 1835, Paul Roman reported that someone was caught in the tunnel and that he heard moaning and cries for help. A group was gathered and the walls breached. They searched the tunnel by torchlight, but no one was found. Roman swore that he heard cries for help.
• Children would often venture up to the passage and dare each other to sneak in through one of the spots where the walls had crumbled. In the summer of 1846, 17 year old Thomas Browbury took the dare and snuck into one of the open spots. He remained in the dark passage for over an hour before help arrived to rescue the boy who seemed to have suffered some sort of seizure while in the passage.
• In 1850, additional steps were taken to keep thrill seekers out of the passage after an 13 additional cases of people having to be pulled from the tunnel were reported. The idea was that the passage was leaking some sort of gas and that was the underlying cause of the fainting spells and seizures for those who entered it.
• In 1925, another round of security measures were taken and the passage was finally sealed off completely. But, people who make the trip to the passage entry points still claim that you can sometimes hear strange noises coming out from behind the rock and debris used to close it off.