Site Records

Site Name: Brunswick Tunnel

Langcliffe Avenue
North Yorkshire
OS Grid Ref: SE308541 (East portal)

Sub Brit site visit 7th September 2008

[Source: Nick Catford]

The York and North Midland Railway opened in 1839, connecting York with the Leeds and Selby Railway and in 1840 with the North Midland Railway at Normanton near Leeds. The line was largely financed by George Hudson who invested a substantial inheritance in the North Midland, becoming a director. He then took an active part in the promotion of the route and commissioned George Stephenson to construct the line.

George Hudson

Having completed the York line, George Hudson turned his attention to Harrogate, proposing a branch to the town from a junction with the Y & NM at Normanton with stations at Stutton, Tadcaster, Newton Kyme, Thorpe Arch, Wetherby and Spofforth and a terminus at Harrogate. Local people and businesses initially opposed the railway fearing an influx of people from Leeds and Bradford would lower the tone of the area but this opposition was overcome and the line opened to a temporary terminus at Spofforth

10th August 1847 and was extended into Harrogate Brunswick on 20th July 1848. The terminus was sited on Trinity Road, adjacent to the Methodist church opposite The Stray and was

constructed entirely of timber. The main engineering features were at the north west end of the route between Spofforth and Harrogate with the line passing first through the 825-yard Prospect tunnel then across the 31 arch Crimple viaduct and then through the 400-yard Brunswick tunnel before entering the terminus at Harrogate Brunswick. (This was the official name of the station although in timetables it was only shown as Harrogate).

The east portal of Brunswick Tunnel
Photo by Nick Catford

On 1st September 1848, the Leeds and Thirsk Railway (renamed Leeds Northern Railway in 1849) opened their line to Harrogate with a station to the east of the town at Starbeck. In 1849 George Hudson was forced to resign as chairman of the York & North Midland Railway following his involvement in dubious business activities.

In 1851 the Thirsk line was joined by the East and West Yorkshire Junction Railway from York at Knaresborough east of Harrogate.  In 1854 the York & North Midland Railway amalgamated with the Leeds Northern Railway to form the North Eastern Railway who built a new line from a junction with their Normanton line immediately east of Brunswick tunnel; this allowed trains to run into Starbeck station. 

This OS map is 6" dated 1854, 8 years before closure of Brunswick Station. The new Central Station which opened in 1862 is however shown on the map although not seen here so the date of the map is clearly later than the listed date of publication. Although there is double track through the tunnel to the west of the tunnel the line is only single track.

A better quality version of the same map clearly shows the station with two sidings to the left on of them running into a small engine shed. Unfortunately the adjacent sheet to the south is not available.

new central station was opened at Harrogate on 1st August 1862 and Brunswick Station was closed. Initially the terminus was retained for goods traffic but this was short lived.  The exact date of final closure is not known but the 1893 Ordnance Survey map shows the track in the eastern approach cutting to the tunnel had been lifted and the cutting to the west of the tunnel has been infilled.

Brunswick tunnel found a new use during WW2 when an air raid shelter was built just inside the west portal; it was the only large public shelter in that part of Harrogate. Harrogate was only bombed once in 1941 and that was in error when one German plane strayed over the town. The shelter was abandoned by 1943 and sealed.  In c1954 the tunnel was surveyed for possible use by the Ministry of Supply as an engineering works but it was never used for this purpose.  All evidence of the shelter entrance was finally removed in the 1960's during road

Plaque at the site of Brunswick Station
alterations. At this time workmen accidentally dug into the tunnel roof unaware of its existence!

This 1893 map shows the approach cutting to the east portal, now without track but there is no trace of the cutting to the west of the tunnel

Today the only evidence of Brunswick station is a metal commemorative plaque mounted on a stone at the site. No photographs of the station are known.

There is no evidence of the west portal of the tunnel which is lost beneath the Leeds Road and Langcliffe Avenue roundabout but the east portal is still in good condition although the short cutting between the tunnel and the existing line into Harrogate is heavily overgrown with no public access. The portal has two fixed metal grills to allow bats to use the tunnel. 

Photo:Looking east through Brunswick tunnel towards the east portal
Photo by Nick Catford

During the summer of 2008, Harrogate Borough Council granted Subterranea Britannica permission to visit the tunnel and prior to the visit cleared all the undergrowth on the approach to the portal. There was originally a route to the cutting from Langcliffe Avenue but this has now been incorporated into one of the gardens although the council still retain right of access and having entered the garden we were able to climb over a low wall at one side of the tunnel portal and climb down into the cutting. One of the metal grills had been removed for our visit. A new, more secure, gate has now been fitted to protect the tunnel from unlawful access.

For further information and pictures of this site click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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