A mystery sculptor has left an extraordinary mark on a West Yorkshire railway tunnel.
Now the search is on to unmask the anonymous artist behind the 22 faces carved into the walls beneath the Pontefract to Sheffield line near Hemsworth.
Local poet and novelist Steve Ely admits to having become fascinated by what he has christened the “Growcock Faces” – a reference to a village that was thought to have stood nearby up to the eighteenth century.
“I want to know who carved them, the intention behind them, their meaning. Who will solve the mystery of the Growcock Faces?” he said.
The bridge tunnel, situated between the former pit communities of Upton and Hemsworth, had been an access route to a local farm, but has been overgrown and largely unused for some time.
Mr Ely had walked through the 30ft thoroughfare in the past, but only discovered the carvings about six months ago.
“Imagine my disquiet when walking the dogs last summer, I entered the tunnel to be confronted by the inscrutable eyes of no less than 22 sculpted heads and carved faces that had been chiselled from the ashlar,” he said.
“The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as before my disbelieving eyes, face after face was revealed from the stone.”
Local enquiries to determine who is responsible have so far proved fruitless.
A spokeswoman for Network Rail, which manages the tunnel, said investigations had revealed they dated back to 2010 or earlier – and added that the company had no intention of removing them.
She said: “Network Rail spends many thousands of pounds cleaning graffiti from the rail network each year.
“However, these faces are not offensive, have not undermined the structure and did not require anyone to trespass on the railway to create them – all of which would obviously be a more serious matter.
“While we wouldn’t encourage people to take chisels to our structures we wont be taking any action in this instance.”