Newcastle: WWII And The Victoria Tunnel

Newcastle

The Victoria Tunnel is under the management of the Ouseburn Trust and it’s considered one of the most satisfying activities to do while you are in Newcastle. It has been a North East visitor attraction during 2013.

In 1842, the tunnel was opened as an underground waggonway, which used to take coal from the Spital Tongues to colliers on the Tyne. However, during the Second World War, it was used as an air raid shelter.

The coordinator of the Victoria Tunnel, Mr Clive Goodwin is trying to bring together people who used it as a shelter during the war. He thinks people should gather and share memories of the heavy times of the war.

“It’s a fascinating place,” said Clive who is now 66 years old and living in South Gosforth, the Chronicle Live reports.

Around 9,000 people in Newcastle found shelter in the tunnel when bombs were hitting the city during the Second World War.

When the plan of the tunnel was first created, it was supposed to have 27 entrances along the 2.4-mile length of the tunnel. In the end only 7 of them were built: 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.

Clive said that families used to send their grannies first to find some space and that they were very brave; they would say  ‘we’d rather be damp than dead’.  People are keen to hear the stories of those who found shelter in the tunnel and also to see some pictures of them in the tunnel at the time of the raids.

The waggonway used to be the longest railway tunnel during the Victorian times. The coal was taken to London instead of Newcastle’s city centre, this way saving 85% on transport costs.

The tunnel took only three years to excavate and then to be lined with stone and bricks, and 200 navigators worked in shifts along its route.

In 1860 the tunnel was closed off and was only used as a mushroom farm until the start of the war in 1939.

As the tunnel is now open for tours, Clive is hoping to attract some people who would enjoy working as volunteer guides.

“New guides will undergo a training program, and I’m sure they would find the work incredibly interesting.”

For anymore information on the Victoria Tunnels, or if you want to book a tour, check out www.ouseburntrust.org.uk or email clive.goodwin@ouseburntrust.org.uk or telephone 0191 2616596.