Organised walk through the tunnel

Friends gather at the entrance to the Kemp Town Railway Tunnel
Tony Simpson
The blocked entrance/exit at Elm Grove End
Tony Simpson
L-R: Indigo Edwards, Alex Langridge & Sophie Parker inside the tunnel
Tony Simpson
L-R: Maya Blinkhorn, Chris (aka Dumpman), Indigo & Alex
Tony Simpson

William Clarke Park (known locally as the Patch) is situated on the site of Hartington Halt, a former railway cutting on the Kemp Town line that was land filled during the 1970s. A viaduct ran across the Lewes Road (where Sainsbury’s is), over Melbourne Street & Hartington Road through the patch and then under Elm Grove School playground where it entered a tunnel to Kemp Town Station. Most of the viaduct was demolished in the early 1970s.

A mixture of ages on the walk
In October 2007, Friends of William Clark Park organised a walk through the tunnel (which closed in 1971).  We were amazed at how much interest there was. Over 100 people requested a place but we could only take 40. A good mixture of ages ranging from 9 to 82 years gathered at the tunnel entrance at the KempTown end on a glorious sunny Sunday.  Amongst us was Derek who’d been a passenger on the last train in 1971 and Mike, a former worker on the railway who shared some of his knowledge during the walk.  The tunnel is just under a mile long and unfortunately the entrance at the Elm Grove end (which would have brought us out to the park) has been blocked for many years.

An incredible engineering feat
It was really atmospheric to walk the underground path of the former railway lit by torches, seeing the incredible engineering feat, with remains of coal dust on the ceiling and clearly visible pick-axe cuttings made by the workers who had crafted it over 100 years before. We wondered what roads and houses we were underneath during our walk and although there are air vents visable above ground there was no sign of them from inside the tunnel.  A couple of times we turned all our torches off and were plunged into complete darkness – the children (& adults probably) loved it!

Back at the pub
After the walk at the Hanover Pub, Godfrey Gould shared his wealth of knowledge on the rise and fall of the railway, illustrated by some wonderful old photographic images.  We showed video footage taken that day followed by a quirky film tracing the whole of the Kemp Town Railway made by Dumpman Films .

Comments about this page

  • If there is another walk through the tunnel I would love to go,

    By Peter Groves (03/09/2010)
  • I would love to go as well.

    By Ekaterina Guseva (24/09/2010)
  • Me too if another walk is planned.

    By Neil Rosborough (21/12/2010)
  • Hi I’m born and bred in Brighton and I’m very interested in the history of Brighton no matter what it contains, and I would be honoured to go on a walk through the tunnel as my grandmother is getting older now, and would very much like to take some photos to see if she would remember the old Brighton - not this new modernised one. So if somebody could get in touch with me that would be fantastic.

    By Charlene Boxall (25/02/2011)
  • Can anybody tell me when the tours are?

    By Tony (04/08/2011)
  • I too would be very interested in joining a tour through the tunnel if anyone has any information?

    By Peter Groves (06/08/2011)
  • Please let me know if there is another walk. I am very interested in the history of the old Kemp Town line.

    By Gavin Wilson (11/12/2011)
  • I’m a born and bred Brightonion and grew up in Hereford Street in the late 60s-70s, and have very fond memories of Kemp Town station situated in what was once Colebrook Road. As kids we used to walk through the tunnel with only candles for light, it was very scary. The north end of the tunnel came out directly below Elm Grove School and continued over the Lewes Road viaduct and over Coxs pill factory (where Sainsburys is now). Fantastic times.

    By Mick Brite (12/12/2011)
  • Myself and also a few friends who are very interested in the history of old railways, are wanting to know when the next visit to the tunnel is as we’ve been talking about it and I have been studying the site for ages, and it would be a joy for us to go back in time.

    By Steve Nevill (04/03/2012)
  • Born on the race hill and brought up at 248, Queens Park Rd (where the tunnel runs directly under). I went to school at St Luke’s & Queen’s Park sec modern. We used to play on the then derelict Kemp Town Good’s yard as kids in the late ’60s and ’70s. I can remember the old railway station buildings and the cafe called Ollie’s. Setyres also had a depot there. I would love to do the tunnel walk if it were to ever happen again.

    By Mark Heslop (08/04/2014)
  • What’s wrong with B&H council? We have the ‘Pavilion Tunnel’ tours that are over-subscribed. Surely these could be organised at least every Sunday during the summer season? I, for one, would pay to do it.

    By Kay Parker-Hinder (13/01/2016)
  • I remember as a teenager in the 1970s climbing over a fence with my mates and walking through the tunnel to Kemptown and back and also walking over the viaduct on several occasions. Once we took fireworks and let them off in the tunnel, we were chased on one occasion, happy days!

    By Antony Furey (15/08/2016)
  • I’ve walked through that tunnel. With some mates I got trackside at London Road and we walked along the trackside to the Kemp Town junction, then across the Lewes Road Viaduct, (where I guess we were spotted), through the tunnel and were just beginning to investigate the former Kemp Town Station, (still there in the late sixties/early seventies), when the police intercepted us. As we were all skiving school, we all gave false names. Looking back, the coppers didn’t really want to know and we thought we’d fooled them.

    By Dave White (08/12/2017)
  • Hi I have just found this website. It’s very interesting. I would love to go on a tour of the tunnel. Could someone please let me know when the next tours are available thanks.

    By Richard Wall (18/02/2018)
  • 50 years ago l lived at 14 Queens Park Rise l was 7 at the time, we could feel / hear the trains going through the tunnel, it’s a long time ago but does what l say ring true ?! Would love to walk through the tunnel so l can walk under our old family home that my brother was born in. Any info will be appreciated. Thanks Neil.

    By Neil Peters (06/01/2021)
  • Dead true Neil and 14 Queens Park Rise was dead on to of the railway tunnel!

    By Peter Groves (08/01/2021)

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