A short tunnel has been driven through the chalk cliff at Pegwell Bay, Kent. It is known locally as the Seaweed Tunnel and is believed to have been excavated to provide easy access to the beach where seaweed could be collected for use as an agricultural fertilizer.
The tunnel can be found at the end of an overgrown footpath running south from a sharp bend in Chalk Hill along the west side of Little Cliffsend farm yard. The brick lined tunnel is open and easily accessible although silted and a little wet in places.
A second much smaller tunnel can be seen nearby. There is a small opening about 8ft above the level of the beach. This leads to 500ft of low, artificial tunnel that is eventually blocked at the base of a shaft.
It is known as Frank Illingworth’s Tunnel after the man who explored and wrote about it in 1938; his opinion being that it was driven by smugglers. At that time, it apparently went much further than today and Illingworth found an ancient pistol and three buttons from an excise man’s tunic. The tunnel slopes slightly towards the beach and, since the cliff is continuously being eroded away, it is possible that it emerged at beach level when in use. The shaft is next to a demolished house and it is possible that smuggled goods were taken along the tunnel from the beach and up the shaft. The tunnel is very tight with little or no room for turning and should be entered with extreme care.
Sources: * Kent Underground Research Group