The river Ouse runs through the hills of the South Downs. The area has been quarried for chalk for centuries, primarily for making lime. The Offham chalk pit (and several other adjacent ones) were well placed to take advantage of the nearby river to transport the chalk and lime.
The owner of Offham chalk pit, George Shiffner, commissioned engineer William Jessop to build a funicular railway to transport the cargo down a steep incline to barges at a wharf on a canal connecting to the river below. This is said to be the first railway in southern England, opening in 1809.
Wagons ran down under gravity along parallel tracks, connected by a rope with a braking wheel at the top. To travel under the existing road, twin inclined tunnels (22m long) were built. These remain in place and in good condition despite the railway closing in 1870.
The tunnels can be easily viewed (although sometimes overgrown with vegetation) by pulling into the car park in the Offham Chalk Pit and a small information board is provided. The tunnels were listed in 2013 and have Grade 2 status.