The Victoria Tunnel runs beneath the city from the Town Moor down to the Tyne. It was built in 1842 to transport coal from Leazes Main Colliery to riverside staithes (jetties) ready for loading onto ships. In 1939, it was converted into an air-raid shelter to protect hundreds of Newcastle citizens during World War II. A programme of repairs in 2007-8 was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the TyneWear Partnership, and part of the Tunnel is now open to the public.

Timeline

1838

Porter & Latimer, the owners of the Leazes Main Colliery are granted permission to build the Tunnel. Work begins the following year.

1842

Construction finishes and the Tunnel is opened with a cannon salute and a party for the workers in the Bigg Market.

1860

The pit closes, the equipment is sold and the Tunnel is forgotten about.

1878

The river end of the Victoria Tunnel is demolished when the Glass House Bridge is built.

1928

Gateshead entrepreneur, Thomas Moore establishes the Victoria Tunnel Mushroom Company. He tries to farm mushrooms in the river end of the Tunnel, but the business fails to grow and closes the following year.

1939

War breaks out and the Tunnel is outfitted as an air raid shelter: several new entrances are built; bunk beds, benches, electric lighting and chemical toilets are installed to make it more comfortable; and blast walls are erected inside the Tunnel to make it safe.

1945

The war ends and all the entrances except the one in Ouseburn are blocked up. The Tunnel is again left in darkness.

1976

Part of the Tunnel is converted into a sewer running from Ellison Place to Queen Victoria Road.

2006

Newcastle City Council secures Heritage Lottery and Single Programme funding to restore the Tunnel and open it to the public.

2010

The Ouseburn Trust took over operating guided tours and now takes 10,000 people on tours ever year.

The Route of the Tunnel

The Tunnel runs down Claremont Road, past the Hancock Museum and under Barras Bridge then beneath Northumbria University City Campus,the central motorway, Shieldfield to St Dominic's Church on the corner of Crawhall Road and New Bridge Street. From here it travels under St Ann's Estate to Ouse St, and originally on to staiths on Mariner's Wharf. 

Tunnel Facts

Date Opened:

7th April 1842

Original Length:

2.5 miles (4km)

Original Height:

7 feet 5 inches (2.3m)

Original Width:

6 feet 3 inches (1.9m)

Drop:

222 feet (68m)

Deepest Point Underground:

85 feet (26m)

Engineer:

William E Gilhespie

Length Accessible Today:

766 yards (700m)