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The Western Heights - The Grand Shaft

The Grand Shaft is a unique triple staircase built in 1806-1809 to  provide a short cut for troops from the Western Heights to the town.  The shaft is 26 feet (8 metres) in diameter and 140 feet (42 metres) in  height. It has three staircases of Purbeck limestone, which wind  clockwise, one above the other, down a central brick light and  ventilation shaft lit by an occasional window. At the bottom the three  staircases meet in the sloping corridor which leads to Snargate Street.  There are 200 steps in each staircase separated by several landings. Later, after the fear of invasion from France had subsided, the three  staircases, which had initially been designed to allow the maximum  number of troops to descend or ascend as quickly as possible, became  segregated. Notices, which changed slightly over the years, were  erected at the top of each staircase stating who was entitled to use  which set of stairs. One of the most famous was: 1. Officers and their ladies 2. Sergeants and their wives 3. Soldiers and their women   The shaft was restored in the 1980s.
The Grand Shaft (September 2006).  Looking down the central drum of the shaft showing the openings that allow light into the three staircases. The stairs leading up to the barracks from the top of the Grand Shaft.  Photo from the early 1960s before the demolition of the barracks. Back to Western Heights Index