Tunnel Vision

Argos Hill

Near Mayfield

West Sussex

Both Portals at TQ571286

Argos Hill in West Sussex isn't really a tunnel at all, it's a skew bridge (a bridge that passes obliquely under or over a road) which was cut and covered rather than bored. It is however, underground, so it still gets in here.

The tunnel is just 60 yards long to pass beneath the old Eastbourne Road, the A267, and is a (generous) double bore.

1960s One Inch Ordnance Survey Map showing the tracks dipping underneath the Eastbourne Road. The overbridges to the east are still extant but the reconstruction of the A267 as the Mayfield bypass reused the original line of the track and the longer Mayfield tunnel was destroyed in the process.

Constructed by the London Brighton & South Coast Railway (LBSCR), Argos Hill opened to traffic in September 1880 and closed, along with the rest of the Cuckoo Line (Eridge to Polegate) in 1965.

The method of construction is quite plain from the profile of the tunnel which has vertical side-walls with reinforcement arches (that look like rather too numerous trackmen's refuges) and a sharp transition to the roof arch.

The side-walls are very similar to contemporary retaining structures on other, surface sections of the LBSCR network, notably the St Margaret's curve in East Grinstead.


Access Today

Access to both portals is straightforward. The tunnel lies underneath the A267 just before the left-hand curve as you head south down Argos Hill. It can be reached on both sides of the road, although the approach from the eastern end is simplest. Just drop into the cutting down the steps from the footpath by the road and double back on yourself. You should then be looking at the portal shown in the photo below.

This shot of the eastern portal shows just how shallow this 'tunnel' is, the road is only two or three metres above the peak of the inner curve or soffit. .

Photo by John Smiles

Dry throughout and now just a shortcut for dog walkers.

Photo by John Smiles

This image shows the regular arches which reinforced the side walls before the 'lid' was put on. These walls are vertical and a clear transition to the roof arch can be seen in the brickwork. The green stuff on the floor is a moss that has managed to colonise the tunnel, forming a carpet across the central section.

Photo by John Smiles

Looking west through the bore.

Photo by John Smiles

The western portal, the trackbed of which is so overgrown that getting a clear sight of the tunnel's mouth proved impossible.

Photo by John Smiles

Sub Brit visits November 2003 and November 2004

Contributors and references:

John Smiles, Martin Malins, Nick Catford

A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain, HP White edited by David St John Thomas and J Allan Patmore

Nigel Callaghan's Database of Railway Tunnels

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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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