Report - - Chipping Norton Tunnel - Chipping Norton - Oxfordshire - December 2021 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Chipping Norton Tunnel - Chipping Norton - Oxfordshire - December 2021


Miss TQ ✌️
28DL Full Member
Chipping Norton Tunnel
Opened: 1887
Closed: 1962
715 Yards Long

Horseshoe shaped in profile the structure is entirely brick built, with a lining comprising six rings.
A falling gradient to the south of about 1:100 is incorporated, together with a curve of approximately 22 chains radius through the southernmost 190 yards.

Both portals feature buttresses and curved wing walls either side of the entrances.
The northern approach cutting has been substantially infilled, resulting in only a portion of the tunnel mouth being visible. This is secured with a blockwall although a grille has been installed for inspection access.
At the south end, the original wall has been replaced with one of half height, above which are horizontal bars to allow bats to enter.
The tunnel acts as their hibernaculum. There is also a high level gate.

Inside the tunnel is very wet.
Extensive calcite deposits are apparent, particularly on the east wall.
Refuges are provided on both sides.
No sign of the three construction shafts is visible.
The infilling of a bridge between the tunnel and former station site has resulted in the southern approach cutting flooding standing water extends back into the tunnel (this is shown in my pictures)

The Banbury & Cheltenham Direct Railway was an amalgamation of three schemes built between 1855-87.

The line's construction was blighted by financial constraints and over optimism. Opposition was encountered from local landowners who resolved to prevaricate as long as possible, before demanding vast amounts of money and concessions from the company.
All this resulted in sporadic bursts of construction activity, separated by lengthy dormant periods.

Work on the final section of route incorporating Chipping Norton Tunnel got underway in 1875.
Another Act of Parliament passed in 1877, was needed following difficulties with the alignment and associated land purchases.
W J Lawrence, the contractor, was suffering financial problems, resulting in the B&CDR ending its arrangements with him late in 1876.
But the railway company was also struggling to make ends meet, resulting in little work taking place throughout 1876 and 1877.
By this time, some progress had been made with the tunnel, including the sinking of at least one shaft.

August 1877 brought the death of Edward Wilson the engineer.
Three months later another contractor A Terry had his contract terminated.
Appointed as his replacement was Henry Lovatt but before he could start the company suspended work on the route's eastern section.
Lovatt continued to carry out maintenance of the tunnel workings having received a small sum for this purpose.

A further Act of Parliament was obtained in 1879 enabling the company to raise additional funds.
When activity resumed it was focused between Cheltenham and Bourton as this was deemed to be more commercially viable. As a consequence progress with the tunnel which had been suspended since September 1876 was not made for another seven years. A Receiver was appointed to run the B&CDR's affairs in 1881.

Initially planned to be 484 yards long an extension to the tunnel had been authorised as part of the July 1877 Act increasing its length by around 150 yards.
An inspection of the workings took place in January 1883, with a view to work restarting under another contractor C E Daniel.
By May miners were busy underground with an additional shaft having been sunk near the south end and a heading being driven towards the centre shaft where a section of tunnel had been completed prior to activity being halted seven years earlier.
A third shaft was active near the north end.

On 1st August 1883 the company agreed a variation with the contractor increasing the tunnel's length once again this time to 715 yards.

On the last day of that month a navvy's hip bone was broken after a large piece of timber sprung out and hit him as he assisted with the removal of centring from a length of completed arch.
The heading was through soon after and most of the construction work had finished by the following May only for works to be suspended again before the south portal had been erected.

The company's continuing monetary constraints affected progress along the rest of the line.
It was not until September 1886 that Major General Hutchinson inspected the route for the Board of Trade and a further six months had elapsed before the first revenue earning train ventured through the tunnel.
It remained operational for just 75 years with closure claiming it on 3rd December 1962.

Locating both ends of this tunnel wasn't too bad once we realised we had dropped one of the pins in the wrong place.. So off we went to the other side of the graveyard and started looking there where we quickly picked up the trackbed and located the tunnel portal.. This was the southern portal and as stated in the report very flooded, so off to the other end we headed, located that end really quick as it was just off of a public footpath, headed down the side of the portal and in we went.

This report will be quite picture heavy but seeing as it's not been posted before I thought I'd try and be quite thorough without being repetitive, I hope I've achieved that.

So we will start of with the Northern Portal.

Northern Portal from the inside.

Looking back towards the Northern Portal.

A really pretty calcite refuge, there was loads of these so I just included the one picture.
All the white gives me Antarctica feels.

A close up of that calcite, I've seen this in so many tunnels but never as '3d' as this was, it was quite hard to picture to show properly.

Another looking back North from further in.

A small section of track chairs were visible. Wonder if there's more under all the calcite covering the floor?

After the 'winter wonderland' section the tunnel turned relatively plain for a section.
It was also quite foggy and that's reflected in the somewhat blurred picture.

This is looking south the fog is apparent in the distance.

Moving closer to the end still looking south, its foggy but it wasn't playing such a hazard anymore.

That's the South end coming into view, this end has a curve.

The Southern Portal is in view, this is taken half way round the curve.

I attempted a natural light shot of the curve

The Southern Portal.
Its very wet this end the water is coming in from the flooding outside the tunnel.

This is the Southern Portal from the outside.. You can see the amount of water in this picture. Its got a blue unwelcoming tinge to it.
Doug Judy has a better shot of this end when he uploads.

The next pictures are a few of the 'different' refuges inside the tunnel.
This is a really plain one, on the plain section.

A yellowy one.

And finishing off with a red one

Hope you enjoyed and ill see you on the next tunnel.


Miss TQ ✌️
28DL Full Member
Reckon there are sleepers under those chairs and thanks for the natural light picture taken on the curve, and great history
I reckon so, because it was solid calcite you couldn't even feel them underfoot.
And thankyou.


Miss TQ ✌️
28DL Full Member
Great report. Photos are amazing. That shot of the calcite in 3d is capitating. :thumbWell done again TQ
Thanks Calamity Jane I've seen a lot of calcite in tunnels before but never like this.. Bromshall was very covered but it didn't have the 3d that this tunnel has.


Miss TQ ✌️
28DL Full Member
Nice Set Maddz, I better give it a couple weeks before I post mine :D Spotted a couple bats whilst heading out the tunnel made sure as not to disturb the little creatures as it’s their home not mine, thankfully they remained in deep slumber…:thumb:sleep
Fair few lil bat's in this one wernt there DJ, Id never disturb em, they are sweet as sleeping but I don't fancy em whizzing round my head .


Miss TQ ✌️
28DL Full Member
Beautiful pics there nature being left to do its own thing.
Most definately, these tunnels if left unmaintained will end up small upenings in the undergrowth, a good example is old warden you see lots of bushes ect but look a little closer and behind them there's a tunnel, unnoticeable unless your looking for it.
And thanks :D

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