THIS is the hidden heart of Blackburn exposed to public view for the first time for more than a century.

These photographs show the Victorian culvert through which the River Blakewater runs under the town centre.

For just a few months as experts from the Eric Wright Group repair and strengthen the walls and roof of the tunnel, visitors will be able to see the River for the first time since the height of the Industrial Revolution.

It shows where a small branch culvert brings the healing waters from the historic All Hallows Spring, located behind the Adelphi pub, into the main flow down from the Blakewater’s source on the moors above Guide.

The maintenance is essential to take the weight of the new Cathedral Quarter development and lorries needed to build the hotel, offices and clergy court that will rise from the dereliction of the current site works.

While exploring the culvert, it was discovered that the years of debris and water, occasionally flooding almost to the historic roof beams, had taken their toll and the stone and ironwork was in urgent need of repair.

The unexpected cold light of spring days revealed the delicate tracery of stalactites dripping from the culvert ceiling that has developed over the years of darkness.

This week site managers John Carney and Gavin Hulme, both Blackburn residents, showed the Lancashire Telegraph, borough regeneration boss Maureen Bateson and Cathedral Quarter development manager Clare Turner the wonders their workforce had uncovered.

Coun Bateson said: “It’s fascinating to see part of Blackburn history hidden for more than 100 years.

“You can see the skill of the Victorian builders who covered this part of the Blakewater, unseen since Queen Victoria reigned.

“It turns out the roof of the culvert was deteriorating and it’s opportune we can do the work now as a new town centre rises, revealing and incorporating the heritage of the past.”