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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
Secret tunnel to beach discovered
The tunnel
The tunnel runs 100 feet below a main road down to Brighton beach
A secret tunnel used as a World War II air-raid shelter has been discovered by property developers working on a seafront building in Brighton.

The tunnel from the former British Legion building to the beach is thought to date from 1840 when the property was built for a wealthy homeowner.

It was discovered behind a wall knocked down by developers and would have originally provided easy beach access.

Local historians have described the tunnel as a "really exciting" find.

'Local legend'

It is thought the tunnel would originally have been one of the luxuries of the house - an easy route from the property to the beach.

Property developer Douglas Pearch said he and his colleagues were working in the building's basement when they knocked down a wall and cleared away rubbish behind it.

That exposed a 100ft tunnel leading under the main seafront road, blocked up by concrete at the end.

When they broke through the concrete they found they were on the beach.

The tunnel's entrance onto the beach
Owners of the new apartments will be able to use the tunnel

Brighton beach was fortified during World War II to stop invading forces landing there and it is believed the tunnel, and others of its kind, would have been blocked up at the sea end in case Germans did land - and try to make their way up the tunnels into the seafront houses.

It is believed that after the beach end of the tunnel was closed off it was used as an underground air-raid shelter, accessed from the house.

Sarah Gibbings of The Regency Society said: "The really exciting thing is that it is from a private house.

"We think it is probably the only surviving tunnel from a private house straight down onto the beach.

"Local legend suggests the cliffs are honeycombed with tunnels but this is the only one we know of that would be used privately."

The building is due to be divided up into apartments in the next few months but the tunnel will remain, providing its new occupants with the same access to the beach their 19th century predecessors enjoyed.

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