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.



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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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


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)


222 feet (68m)

Deepest Point Underground:

85 feet (26m)


William E Gilhespie

Length Accessible Today:

766 yards (700m)

In 2009 artist Adinda van t Klooster was commissioned by the City Council to create a sound and light installation for the Tunnel. The Rainbow Code was part of tours for several years until destroyed during flooding.  Details of the artwork and a video of the ten-minute experience can be seen here - Rainbow Code