Meet the two brothers from Warwick who are rediscovering the tunnels hidden beneath the town's historic streets

They are using modern day technology to uncover and map the secret tunnels of the town

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 12:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 2:14 pm
Joe and Alex Harvey. Photo supplied

Sections of tunnels which lie underneath the historic streets of Warwick are being re-discovered and digitally documented.

Warwick residents Joe and Alex Harvey have been using the latest technology to map the tunnels ready for everyone to explore in Virtual Reality.

The brothers, who started their business Reality in Virtual Reality (RiVR) in 2014, specialise in creating photorealistic virtual reality environments and are known for doing VR training scenarios for the blue lights services and the Home Office.

Having grown up in Warwick they have a shared passion for history and heritage and are using their skills to uncover the tunnels beneath the town.

Alex said: "Our passion is anything to do with cultural heritage and being able to use what we have learnt with photogrammetry to do something in the community while preserving history in the local area and further afield.

"In Warwick there has always been the myth or the story of the tunnels of Warwick - a bit like most towns that have these ancient tunnels - Joe used to be a carpenter before he was a VR director and he used to work for a company who did renovation work on old buildings in Warwick

"About 12 years ago they were renovating a house in Jury Street the builders uncovered a well at the back of the house and about five metres down the well there was a hole cut out of the bedrock which they went through and had a little look but they didn't do too much exploring.

They are using modern day technology to uncover and map the secret tunnels of the town. Photo supplied

"12 years later we started looking at the tunnels of Warwick after scanning Guy's Cliffe House for a separate project. At this point, local historians Jim Griffin and Peter Chapman shared a newspaper cutting a newspaper cutting from the 1920s, it said that there was a tunnel off a well at this same location - this was the missing jigsaw piece that got us to look further at this property on Jury Street.

"About six months ago, Joe arranged for safety equipment to be put over the hole and Jim volunteered to explore down the tunnel with a laser scanner and a Go Pro - we filmed it all 360 video so people can actually see it.

"With the captured data from the well and parts of the tunnel we are now able to look at it using a virtual reality headset.

"More recently we went down again with the Tech Rescue team from Leicester fire and rescue service, we put Go Pros on them and they went further into the hole and filmed more footage.

They are using modern day technology to uncover and map the secret tunnels of the town. Photo supplied

"You down the well and you go through this hole in the rock and then to the left handside there's one tunnel that leads back up towards the house, then straight ahead of you, you can go about 10-15 metres down until the tunnel turns off to the left then there's a partial collapse a further 10 metres down that way.

"That bit points off towards St Mary's Church in Warwick."

Joe added: "There's lots of other history behind it and the fact is that everyone in Warwick has heard about tunnels and everyone seems to have a blocked off entrance in their basement that supposedly leads to the castle but no one has ever produced any pictures or video or concrete evidence - until now

"We're friends with the guys that run the Facebook group Warwickshire Tunnel Busters. Since we first went down the tunnel in July/August last year and started sharing odd little bits and pieces about our findings onto the group, the group has grown from around 300 members to nearly 2,000 now.

They are using modern day technology to uncover and map the secret tunnels of the town. Photo supplied

"There is a lot of interest from the local community and it's great to see."

Alex said: "People like the mystery and with this one people can go one step further and see down it."

The pair said they want to try and use their technology to create a documentary about the tunnels.

Joe said: "Our motivation for doing it as well as it being an interest to us, we want to try and develop a new way of telling a story and doing a documentary.

"We want to be able to incorporate VR experience in with a video documentary using a 'Step in documentary style'."

As well as documenting the tunnels Joe and Alex said there are more applications for the augmented reality and virtual reality technology they use.

They said: "We've had access to some interesting places including St Mary's Church in Warwick where we scanned part of the inside of the building to hopefully at some point help generate revenue for the church.

"We have recently had a request from Realities.io which is a well-established VR experience creator - they have a new experience for Oculus Quest 2, which is called Puzzling Places, which is where you get a 3D object that is split it up into multiple parts and in VR you have to piece it together like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle.

"They have seen some of our work and they want to license some of the models that we have created for use in 'Puzzling places'.

"We are in conversations with the church regarding this idea - we want to take the money from 'Puzzling Places' and donate it to St Mary's Church.

"These historical places have lost a big chunk of income due to Covid. Perhaps they could soon use digital recreations of their assets to generate some much needed money.

"We are also speaking to the council as we think this could be replicated through different buildings through the local area."

Joe and Alex also said there are wider uses for the technology in that it can also be used in TV and film production on an LED wall, this could lead to more money for historical places.

Over Christmas the brothers also featured on The Gadget Show for the work hey did scanning Guy's Cliffe House in Warwick.

They said: "We scanned pretty much the whole of Guy's Cliffe House and processed a section of it with Georgie from the show. We then had her back to the office and we went through the whole process of stitching all of the data together and creating a 3D model.

"She then went back to the Gadget Show studio where all of the presenters put VR headsets on and simultaneously were in part of Guy's Cliffe House, which we rebuilt."

To view the segment on the Gadget Show go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmvtp1PVtPAJoe an Alex are also in talks with The Royal Priors in Leamington to create displays in empty show windows using AR and VR.