FLOODED rooms submerged beneath Blenheim Palace's iconic bridge have been revealed for the first time in centuries.

The series of hidden rooms and tunnels, complete with graffiti dating back as far as the 1760s, have been uncovered as part of a £12m dredging project to save the landscape at the historic country house.

They form part of a lost ground floor within the Grand Bridge, hidden for more than 250 years, and have been temporarily uncovered as water levels within the Woodstock estate’s lakes are reduced.

Sunken boats believed to have been used for reed cutting, dating back to the 1950s, were also exposed as the water drained away.

Oxford Mail:

Blenheim's head of estates Roy Cox said: "The Grand Bridge is one of the most intriguing and fascinating buildings at Blenheim.

"We are currently undertaking a full internal 3D survey as part of a major restoration project.

"It has already revealed a large number of rooms and passageways, some containing original plasterwork, stairways and potentially cooking ranges."

The bridge was built by renowned architect and playwright Sir John Vanbrugh in 1708 and has a 30-metre-wide central arch, flanked by smaller arches, and four corner towers.

It measures more than 120 metres in length and stands at 15 metres tall.

According to its listed building records the bridge was originally designed to be a ‘habitable viaduct’.

It originally contained 33 chambers, including a bathing place and a boat house.

Oxford Mail:

Although there is no evidence it was ever lived in, some rooms have fireplaces and chimneys, and one large windowless chamber has been plastered and fitted with an arch as though for a theatre.

When famous landscape architect Capability Brown transformed Blenheim's grounds in the 18th century, he built two dams and a huge 40-acre lake, flooding the lower rooms.

The vista across the lake, which was hailed by Winston Churchill’s father as the 'finest view in England', is under serious threat of disappearing.

Decades of silt have meant both the Queen Pool and main lake have become so shallow they are at risk of drying out completely.

The dredging project has been taken on to save the view, and repairs to the Grand Bridge will be carried out at the same time.

The project is being funded by several sources including visitor admissions, gift aid donations and the proceeds of development on Blenheim Estate land.

Blenheim is also fundraising donations via its website.