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The tunnel, then and now

I used to live in Brighton. And as a child I used to play in Kemp Town Station. Here are some black & white photos of the other end of the Tunnel.

I don’t think that these photos are very good as I took them when I was about 8 years old in about 1953. I used a snapshot 127 camera.

View from the tunnel on Kemp Town Branch Line in about the 1960's
Photo by John Leach
View from the tunnel on Kemp Town Branch Line in about the 1960's
Photo by John Leach
Kemp Town Branch Tunnel as it looks today
Photo by John Leach

Comments about this page

  • Which end of the tunnel is this?

    By Mike (19/07/2004)
  • I would say that the photo is from the north end of the tunnel as it emerges from under Elm Grove at the back of Seville Steet where I live. The track was taken up in 1971-2 and the cutting was filled in – it’s now the William Clarke Park where many children, including my own, continue to play. We’re holding a Street Party this Sunday 15th Aug (2 – 7pm) to mark the centenary of Seville Street for which I’ve assembled various photos and stories. I’d love to hear more about the games that were played in this once hidden wild-life reserve. If you can e-mail further memories (to before 15 Aug’04 I’d love to post them up with the rest of the exhibition.

    By Duncan Blinkhorn (Friends of William Clarke Park) (12/08/2004)
  • The photos of the tunnel were taken in the 1960s. They are of the other end of the tunnel from Kemp Town Station, comming out under Elm Grove.

    By John Leach (24/08/2004)
  • I used to play here as well. We would have to watch out for trains and then, when they abandoned it, we would go right into the tunnel. We lit our way with saltpeter and sugar mixed together and set it alight. I know the entrance was blocked off pretty soon after that.

    By Kevin Bushby (09/04/2005)
  • Does anybody know whether there is anything left of the tunnel now (that isn’t blocked up)? I know its blocked up at Elm Grove end, but what about Kemp Town end? If so, any idea who should be contacted?

    By Jackie Blackwell (20/08/2007)
  • Hi Jackie. The tunnel is still there and doesn’t look too dissimilar from the picture above. It is now used as a storage area, through the storage centre in the industrial estate.

    By Mike (27/01/2008)
  • The pictures are of the site of Kemp Town Station.

    By Lex Angel (19/10/2009)
  • I would love to go on a tour of the tunnel. Any chance of one planned for the near future?

    By Jen Fox (26/10/2009)
  • I don’t remember these tunnels, but I did work for a while in Edlin’s Globe Hotel in Kemp Town. In the cellar were two tunnels. One with cross timbers with a notice “too dangerous to enter” and the other that had been bricked up with a notice “bricked up by the revenue men in ????”

    By Peter St. Johanser (28/03/2011)
  • It is very interesting to be reminded of the tunnel and Kemp Town station. At the start of the war my family had an hotel at 6, Atlingworth Street and soon after war was declared troops were billeted all over the town and we had several. I can clearly recall, at the age of five being held by my sister as the street was full of troops paraded and then marched off as part of the BEF, to go from Kenptown Station to Newhaven for shipping to France. We followed them to the station and saw them off and I remember the trains leaving the station and passing into the tunnel. It makes you wonder how many of them made it back via Dunkirk in 1940.

    By Ken Ross (29/03/2011)
  • My grandfather Alfred Brooker was a steam train driver until he died in 1952, the year before I was born. My mother told me a lot about him. During the second world war the trains were parked in the Kemp Town tunnel at night to protect them from German bombs. One was dropped on the line near the tunnel which blew out the windows of the family home just up from Hamden Road. When I was at Elm Grove Junior School in the early 1960s, a train a week still went through the tunnel and rattled the school. In 1971 I was a member of casualty union and we took part in a film for the bicentenial of the Red Cross. We filmed in Kemp Town and the rail tracks were still there. We staged a crash between a bus and train and we were rescued from the bus. Never seen the film.

    By Jenny Wilson (16/05/2012)
  • The Kemp Town Branch left the Brighton to Lewes line at Kemp Town Junction, just to the east of the London Road Tunnel (itself just to the east of London Road (Brighton) Station. After passing the coal yard (still working some years ago!) the line crossed the Lewes Road on a brick built viaduct.

    This was damaged by a bomb (WWII) and a steel girder span was used to repair it. (This lasted until the viaduct was mostly demolished. After a while, the rest went, and a Sainsbury’s store was built on the site, and that of the “Pill Factory” that was next to the viaduct.)

    Lewes Road Halt was at the “start” of the viaduct. Parts of the station seem to have been incorporated into the “Pill Factory” after closure.

    Hartington Road was crossed by a nice brick built arch bridge, the Hartington Road Halt being just “south” of the bridge, before the start of the cutting.

    The cutting up to the tunnel (it got very deep) has indeed been partially filled in. The tunnel mouth was just below the School walls on Elm Grove.

    When the cutting was being filled, the tunnel end was walled of with concrete, with a small doorway left to acces the interior while work was in progress (this wall is probably around 1 foot or so thick, the Key Stone of the arch is still visible inside the wall at the tunnel end).

    On completion of the wall, wooden suttering was erected on the inside of the doorway, and concrete “rough-poored” to seal the doorway. The remains of the shuttering were still there some years ago!

    The first two photos are taken looking towards Lewes Road from the cutting.

    The colour photo is a recent view of the Kemp Town Station end of the tunnel. (More recent than when I last was there!)

    By Sarah Jenkins (25/05/2015)

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