Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 12:31 UK

Historic tunnel under city opened

Inside Victoria Tunnel. Photo: Newcastle City Council
Wagons carrying coal went along the tunnel

Visitors will be able to explore a historic tunnel under Newcastle.

The Victoria Tunnel was built between 1839 and 1842 and used as a waggon way to transport coal, and was an air raid shelter during World War II.

Guided tours of a section of the Grade-II listed structure, in the Ouseburn area, will be run from 1 May.

At the entrance there will be information boards and sound effects of rumbling wagons and air raids with memories of people who sheltered there.

Wagons used the tunnel to take coal from the Leazes Main Colliery, near the Town Moor, to the river near the Ouseburn.

Surveyor in the tunnel in 1939. Photo: Newcastle City Council
A surveyor in the tunnel in 1939

It was originally two-and-a-quarter miles (3.6km) long and 7ft 5ins (2.3m) high.

When the pit closed in 1860, the tunnel lay empty until WWII when it was used as an air raid shelter with bunk beds, electric lights and chemical toilets.

After the end of the war it was forgotten until it was reopened in 1998 by the Ouseburn Partnership but was closed again in 2006 because of structural problems.

Funding from the Tyne Wear Partnership and Newcastle City Council covered the cost of repairs and public safety measures.

A grant of £205,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund will be used for the guided tours.

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It was dug by Victorian miners to carry coal to the River Tyne - and it sheltered thousands from German bombing raids in the last war.



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