Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Real-Life Time Tunnel Right under Our Feet; Dave Morton Meets the Man Who Runs Tours of Newcastle's Historic Victoria Tunnel Which Runs from the North of the City Down to the River Tyne

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Real-Life Time Tunnel Right under Our Feet; Dave Morton Meets the Man Who Runs Tours of Newcastle's Historic Victoria Tunnel Which Runs from the North of the City Down to the River Tyne

Article excerpt

IT'S one of Tyneside's hidden historical treasures - and it's right under our feet.

The Victoria Tunnel runs from the north of Newcastle down to where the Ouseburn enters the Tyne.

Its history stretches back to 1842 when it opened as an underground waggonway, taking coal from a longgone pit in Spittal Tongues to waiting colliers on the busy Tyne.

However, by the middle of the last century, it was being used as an air raid shelter during World War II.

The tunnel provided refuge for up to 9,000 people in Newcastle as German bombs rained down on the city.

Originally, there were 27 wartime entrances planned along the 2.4-mile length of the tunnel, but in the event seven were constructed.

For the record, these were at Spital Tongues, the Hancock Museum, St Thomas churchyard in the Haymarket, Ridley Place, Christchurch in Shieldfield Green, St Dominic's in Crawhall Road, and Ouse Street.

Now, Clive Goodwin, coordinator of the Victoria Tunnel, is appealing for folk to come forward and work as volunteers and provide guided tours.

He said: "We're looking for willing and enthusiastic volunteers who want to give something back to the community.

"Full training will be given - and we've got volunteers aged from people in their early 20s to folk in their 80s, so there's no age limit."

The story of the unique underground structure began in the early Victorian times when the waggonway became the world's longest railway tunnel Its underground route avoided taking coal through Newcastle city centre and saved 85% on transport costs. Most of the coal was transported to London.

The tunnel took less than three years for 200 navvies to excavate, and was then lined with stone and bricks.

By 1860 all the coal reserves in the area had been mined and the tunnel was closed off - apart from being used briefly as a mushroom farm - right until the outbreak of war in 1939.

The tunnel is now open for guided tours and is a must-visit location for history buffs. …

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