NOT much raises the goosebumps more than the prospect of being trapped in a low tunnel.

Especially if it’s very narrow, pitch black and thoroughly claustrophobic.

Perhaps that’s why so many legends have attached themselves to the supposed network of subterranean passages in and around Worcester.

Undoubtedly the most scary is the story of a young nun who allegedly died terrified after finding herself entombed in one that is said to lead from the building called Whiteladies House in The Tything to Worcester Cathedral.

It is claimed that on wild and windy nights her manic wailing and the sound of her fingernails clawing desperately again the inside of the tunnel’s wooden door can still be heard.

Personally I have my doubts about that, because since 1868 the property has been part of Worcester’s boys grammar school and for many years, up until recent times, served as its boarding house where pupils slept in dormitories.

In my whole stretch there I never heard of any female noises coming from behind closed doors, unless they were from young ladies who had been surreptitiously sneaked in before the co-ed days.

And seeing as the house master back then, AR “Wimpy” Wheeler, had the eyes of a hawk and the hearing of a bat that was extremely unlikely.

Nevertheless, that a passage of sorts existed cannot be denied because over the centuries there have been several mentions of it.

Dr Treadway Nash, the Worcestershire historian of the late 1700s, wrote that he entered the passage from the Tything hoping to trace its course, but had to give up after about 100 yards because of its foul air.

His lamp also went out.

As well as a tunnel to the Cathedral, there was also supposed to be one from Whiteladies to Hindlip House, but the distance to either place makes this extremely unlikely.

The legend had its biggest boost in Victorian times when James Skipp Borlase wrote a lurid bit of fiction called The White Witch of Worcester.

Set in the 1300s, it was serialised in the Worcestershire Chronicle in the 1880s. The book combined the real life death of Ursula Corbett, condemned to death for poisoning her husband, with a secret tunnel below the city which would have provided her with an escape route.

In reality Ursula didn’t die in a tunnel, but was burned at the stake in the middle of Worcester.

Despite this inconvenience, Whiteladies was the site of the only nunnery founded in Worcester.

It was set up around 1250 by Bishop Canteloup and distinctive for the white habits of the Cistercian nuns.

Although it was endowed with 53 acres of land just outside Worcester at a place called Aston - now known as White Ladies Aston – the foundation was never rich and the nuns laboured hard in the fields.

The property fell to the Crown during the Dissolution and the current Whiteladies House was built by Richard Blurton in the 18th century.

However, medieval red stone fragments of the original chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalene in 1255 remain.

Interestingly, another priory of White Ladies was established in the 12th century in Shropshire and achieved brief fame in 1651 when Charles II hid there after fleeing the Battle of Worcester before moving on to nearby Boscobel House.

Maybe he picked up an English Heritage guide as he galloped down The Tything.