The GardenA blog by yours truly

The Victoria Tunnel

The Victoria Tunnel runs beneath the streets of Newcastle, from the Tyne up to the Town Moor. It traverses not only space, but time, through nearly every corner of England鈥檚 history: built to transport coal in the Industrial Revolution, on the site of an old Roman spring, it was used during the second world war to house those fleeing German bombs. It was even considered for use in the cold war, before the government realised that some musty old coal tunnels would probably not provide the greatest protection against a nuclear blast.

And now you can go down it. In 2007, Newcastle City Council decided to refurbish the tunnel and open a small stretch鈥塷f it 鈥 the rest is either unsafe for sending humans down or currently in use as a sewer鈥夆斺塽p for public tours. Entry is via a side street along the Ouseburn, where the guides will cheerfully show you a map and some old photographs of the entrance. Once you get inside the tunnel itself, hard hats and torches are compulsory, and covid restrictions are still in full force. This was both a benefit and a malefit: yes, the tour was shorter than it would otherwise be, and masks get quite uncomfortable when you鈥檙e wearing them for an hour in a dank, dark tunnel, but on the other hand, our small group of family and friends got the place practically all to ourselves, without having to be shepherded alongside other members of the public.

The water from the ancient Roman spring is directed through a side channel, to avoid it getting all over the tunnel floor. Sometimes it even works!

The tunnel is just barely wide enough to fit three people side-by-side, and if, like me, you鈥檙e of a certain height, bumping your head on the roof is practically guaranteed. By every blast door, there鈥檚 a plaque about what鈥檚 above you, and how it factors into the tunnel and the city鈥檚 history, stories with which the guides will gladly regale visitors (including some rather grim tragedies).

Coming back out the entrance, i felt more informed about this wonderful county鈥檚 industrial history 鈥 just in time to pop over to a gentrified vegan 鈥渟uperfood pub鈥. The wonders of modern life.

Information for prospective visitors

  • Tours can be booked on the Ouseburn Trust鈥檚 website.
  • Price: 拢9鈥11 per adult depending on the length of the tour; 拢4 per child
  • Address:
    Victoria Tunnel Entrance, Ouse St., Valley, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PF
    鈥 just next to the CrossFit gym.
  • Accessibility: The tunnel was built in the 19th century and without accessibility in mind, so is not wheelchair-accessible. The Ouseburn Trust do, due to the pandemic, offer a virtual tour.
  • Getting there: The Q3 bus from the centre of town stops nearby; otherwise, getting there poses a bit of a hike, due to its location.

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