Report - - Victoria Tunnel Newcastle Aug 2012 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Victoria Tunnel Newcastle Aug 2012

The Stig

Urbex = Nosey Bastard
Regular User
Visited with MrDystopia, CommunistCat and myself

Brief History

When it opened in 1835, the Leazes Main or Spital Tongues colliery was one of many coal mines around Newcastle. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing: demand for coal was high and the competition was great.

Initially, the coal was carried on carts from the colliery through the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne to the river, ready for shipping. This was slow, as the town was largely still in its medieval layout, with narrow cobbled streets (Grainger Town was still in the early stages of construction) and expensive because of the road taxes. Porter and Latimer, the colliery owners, therefore employed a local engineer, William E. Gilhespie, to construct an underground wagonway. An overground waggonway following much the same route was mooted, but the Freemen of Newcastle would not give permission for tracks to be laid across the Town Moor. A more direct route to Elswick, about two miles upstream from the mouth of the Ouseburn, was also ruled out, because the old Tyne Bridge (the Swing Bridge would not be built until 1873) prevented ships sailing beyond Newcastle. Building a staithe here would involve having to pay the keelmen to take the coal downstream of the bridge before it could be loaded into the colliers, thereby significantly reducing the profit margin on each load of coal shipped.

Permission to build the tunnel was granted in 1838 and work started the following year. The tunnel was probably dug in sections. The engineers would have excavated a shaft down to the right level then tunnelled out to link up with the next section. John Cherry was appointed to manage the tunnelling, he was a former Yorkshire Lead Miner who had previously been employed as a miner at the Leazes Main Colliery. Building works were carried out by the firm of Mr David Nixon, a builder of Prudhoe Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.[1] Some 200 workers were employed in the construction of the Tunnel and Thomas Fordyce in his Local Records for 8 January 1841 reported 'The workmen, to the number of two hundred, were regaled with a substantial supper and strong ale, supplied by Mrs. Dixon, the worthy hostess of the Unicorn Inn, Bigg-market, Newcastle. The Albion band attended, and enlivened the joyous occasion with their music'.[2] The walls of the tunnel were lined in stone, and a double brick arch supported the roof. It is approximately 7 ft 5 in (2.26 m) high and 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) wide. This was just large enough to accommodate the custom-built chaldron wagons.

Transporting the coal
Because of the gradual gradient of the tunnel, loaded wagons were able to roll along a standard gauge rail track down to the river. A rope was tied to the last wagon in the train and a stationary steam engine at the top of the tunnel hauled the empty wagons back up to the pithead.

Grand opening
The Victoria Tunnel was named after the popular, young Queen Victoria. It was officially opened by the Mayor of Newcastle on the 7 April 1842. A crowd of spectators including the sheriff and important merchants gathered on the quayside and at 1pm cannons were fired as a train of eight wagons appeared out of the tunnel. Four of the wagons contained coal, and the others a “company of ladies and gentlemen and a band of musiciansâ€￾![3]

Pit closure
The Victoria Tunnel was a financial success: it reduced the cost of transporting coal from the pit to the river by 88%.[4] The colliery, however was not a success and closed in 1860.
Having taken two and a half years to build, the Tunnel was in use for just eighteen years.

Air raid shelter
In 1939, Britain prepared for war. People were instructed to practise “Air Raid Precautionsâ€￾ and protect themselves from bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe. In Newcastle, the city engineer developed plans to convert the Victoria Tunnel into a communal air raid shelter for 9000 people.








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