Page updated 8 July,2009


During the first half of the 19th centuary railways were spreading across the country but with those influence in High and Low Harrogate resisted the creation of a line citing the smoke and disturbance that railways would bring, and in any case, a line across the Stray from the direction of Leeds or York was out of the question. A compromise was the laying of a railway line (from the main line at York via Wetherby) that terminated on the very edge of the Stray close to what is now the Prince of Wales roundabout; this terminus was named Brunswick Station after the nearby Brunswick Hotel.

The line from York passed through Prospect Tunnel, over Crimple Viaduct then northwards towards the Stray but, just short of the Stray swung north-west into a tunnel for about a quarter of mile before exiting into a cutting after passing under Leeds Road. The first train arrived in Brunswick Station on 20 July,1848. A change of heart (or an eye to profits) permitted a line across the Stray, but in a cutting, and the creation of (the present) Harrogate Station; Brunswick closed on 1st August,1862.

The "Harrogate" Tunnel would then have been abandoned but still remains, intact, to this day (2008) beneath Langcliffe Avenue.

The tunnel contains what is thought to be a Second World War air raid shelter and this too remains virtually intact.

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The history of the proposals for a railway line into Harrogate is so convoluted that this is certainly not the place to describe the many routes put forward except to say that in the 1840s Knaresborough was more of a magnet than tiny Harrogate, with the need to supply the flax/linen industry in Knaresborough. Harrogate received its visitors to the various wells by coach and there was resistance within Low and High Harrogate to the smoke and disturbance that railways would bring. It must be remembered, however, that transportation of (domestic and manufacturing) coal, materials for building and industry, exportation of finished products was the prime force for any railway in the country and that passenger traffic was not necessarily the driving force. For a comprehensive account of the rationale behind the various railway schemes see Chapter XIII, "Railways and the Growth of Harrogate" of "A History of Harrogate & Knaresborough" by the Harrogate W.E.A. Local History Group, edited by Bernard Jennings.

One little-known bit of local history was that the original Harrogate railway station, Brunswick Station, was (almost) on The Stray, within yards of what is now Trinity Methodist Church. This was the end of a branch line of the York and North Midland Railway from Church Fenton and the first train arrived at Brunswick Station on 20 July,1848. I can find no drawings of the station but several references include mention that it was of wooden construction (rather than stone or brick). Nor why it was named "Brunswick" - perhaps because of the existance of the hotel just across the Leeds Road? At this time Harrogate was still two small and separate places, High and Low Harrogate, and it had to wait until the station moved into its present location to precipitate the huge expansion in the latter 1800s and develop Harrogate into the countries premier spa town.

The York and North Midland railway line from York passed through Tadcaster, Wetherby, Spofforth then into Prospect Tunnel beneath Follifot Ridge and almost immediately on to the enormous (River) Crimple Viaduct. A 1907 postcard shows 27 of the 31 arches of the viaduct across which all trains to Harrogate from Leeds or Weatherby travelled.
The Norwood Sports Ground was at the far left of the picture about 200 yards towards Harrogate. The postcard was published by H Shaftoe, 39 Cheltenham Crescent, Harrogate, and was shown as "Foreign" printed i.e. Bavaria. Designed by John Birkinshaw, the Crimple Valley viaduct was one of the most impressive in the country; it measures a total length of 1873 feet, and consists of 31 arches of fifty feet span, the tallest of which is 120 feet high.

View of the viaduct from the north by Crimple House. To the left is the now-disused Prospect Tunnel and the line to Wetherby; the railway line over the viaduct curves to the west towards Pannal and untimatley Leeds. To the right, the line into Hornbeam Park and Harrogate stations.

Photograph by Tim Marchant
who kindly gave permission to display here

Then within about half a mile, the original path of the line the passed south of Oatlands, a few yards north of the where Hornbeam Park Station is now, curved westwards and then into a tunnel under what would become Langcliffe Ave and behind Royal Crescent, to emerge at the terminus, Brunswick Station. (Incidently, Oatlands had yet to be built and the area was known as Brickfields). As usual with railway architecture, the tunnel portal was impressive and, most likely, built with the same stone as used for Crimple Viaduct; the interior vertical walls were lined with about 9 or 10 courses of very large stone blocks (Millstone Grit?) and then a curved roof of bricks. The 1851 1st Edition of the 6" Ordnance Survey map shows the line and there is no hint of the line which would then replace it into central Harrogate. The tunnel was about a quarter of a mile long and then an quarter mile of open track to Brunswick Station. The maps suggest that there was a separate siding at the station.

The hotel at the crossroads (later a roundabout) of Otley Rd, West Park, Leeds Rd and York Place/Knaresborough Rd was called the Brunswick Hotel, (from 1833) having previously been Hatterley's Hotel - it would become the Prince of Wales Hotel in 1866 until it closed in 1957.

Plaque erected by the Harrogate Cvic Trust.

An image of the Brunswick Hotel is on the Harrogate Lodge web site. However, the image appears to show the building when it was Hattersley's Hotel despite a sign board saying "Brunswick Hotel".

Another image, of 1862, is on Rock's Topographical Vignettes of Harrogate, Yorkshire; image number 4472, almost at the end of the line of images; published Rock & Co, London, from c1848 to 1876.

A map from Harrogate Library show much interesting detail that appears to have been added, by hand, subsequently; this includes the double track in the tunnel becoming single track as it leaves to enter a cutting where Park Drive would eventually be built, and ending at Brunswick Station. The site of the small plaque on a stone commemorating the station is indicated. Interestly, this map includes Norwood College by name and also its Playground and, if the detail is correct, it also appears to includes Clifton House School by name though the image is too small to be definite on this. To see a larger image of the map press here.

There is a curious reference to a Brunswick Station (Cricket) Ground on the Cricket Archive web site; unfortunately, no detail is provided.

Brunswick Station existed between 20 July,1848, and 1 August,1862, when the new line of the North Eastern Railway into the centre lead to the opening of Harrogate Station; as mentioned earlier this enabled the huge expansion of Harrogate, particularly "Low" Harrogate. Brunswick Station continued operating as a goods depot for a short time after its closure to passengers.

The above map was surveyed in about 1850, then revised and printed in the late 1860s; by now the original railway line to Harrogate has been abandoned but the site of the tunnel under (what would become) Langcliffe Ave is shown as is the track to what had been Brunswick station. The road to the left of the word "Lodge" is, of course, Leeds Rd and the road below the large O is Stray Rd - Clifton House School and Norwood College would be the section north of the Lodge. The east-west road crossing Leeds Rd (by the letter "L") is Leadhall lane to the west and Hookstone Rd to the east. The original curve of the railway line towards Brunswick Station is clearly shown on the map - the abandoned position being called Brunswick Junction. One early map calls the tunnel, Harrogate Tunnel.

The above map indicates Oatlands in the upper right area; this is Oatlands HOUSE. The housing area of Oatlands or Oatlands Mount is to the south in the wedge area between Leeds Rd and Hookstone Rd - immediately south of the location of "Travellers Inn". The Travellers Inn would seem to be where the modern Tewit Well Road (not Ave) joins Leeds Road. Though not shown on the map the Oatlands Mount area was then called Brickfields.

The Lodge mentioned above is shown on the next map as being on the corner of Leeds Rd and South Drive; in the 1940/50s this location was occupied by a very nice bakery shop. The Harrogate Advertiser" says, in an article about a "Mystery of inter-war period picture", that:

"Before the shops were built between South Drive and Alderson Road, the site was occupied by a building known as the "Lodge", of which no photographs are known to have survived. According to some notes I read recently, one of the men who worked in about 1922 on the demolition of the Lodge, claimed that much of the building had contained medieval materials, including a timber frame.
This raises interesting possibilities, such as the Lodge having been the gatehouse to the medieval Fulwith Park, or to a farm or manor house, but hard proof is lacking."

It is understood that the above map was also of 1851 but it must have been revised since the new line into central Harrogate is shown; perhaps it is a larger-scale version of the above map. Most inerestingly it shows that the western end of the Harrogate Tunnel was on the west side of leeds Road and some detail as to the outline of Brunswick Station - an enlarged view of that is added. The Brunswick Hotel is indicated.
(The reference to the White House is to an unrelated property close by).

The next map is from the 1890s and by now Harrogate is fast approaching the modern Harrogate; Royal Crescent is now built (between 1851 and 1891) but there is nothing in Stray Rd, Tewit Well Ave or the other roads to the south towards Oatlands Mount. Although Langcliffe Ave is marked on the plan, no houses are indicated; they first appear on the Census of 1901 when four houses are included. Notice how the other roads are aligned in a quite different orientation to Langcliffe Ave; it looks as though Langcliffe Ave was intentionally built over the tunnel. The buildings which became Norwood would be built in number 1125 of 3.454 acres and Clifton probably just in 1142 of 2.476 acres (not that either school occupied the whole section, of course). For a larger and easily readable image press here. Brunswick Junction with the space where the line curved into the tunnel is still clearly indicated.

Where was the other end of the tunnel? To the east or to the west of Leeds Road? Neither of the above maps provide an accurate indication. Leeds Road was the main stage coach route southwards from Harrogate and if today's elevation was about the same in the 1840s, the tunnel would certainly have continued under Leeds Rd suggesting that the end of the tunnel would have been somewhere on the alignment of today's Park Drive. As mentioned earlier the line continued via a cutting to Brunswick Station. During the construction of the Leeds Rd/St George's Rd roundabout in the 1960s workmen accidentally dug into the bricks of the tunnel lining and had quite a surprise - but not exactly a Roman mosaic pavement! If the workmen were not advised of the location of the tunnel was this because the highways department had forgotten the tunnel's existence? Perhaps in the intervening 100 years the highways department had lost all records of the tunnel. And, today, who is responsible for the upkeep of the structure? Harrogate Council, Network Rail - or who?

Explorations in 2008 have revealed a brick-built structure approximately beneath Leeds Road. Malcolm G Neesam's book, "Exclusively Harrogate" mentions the possiblity of the construction of an air raid shelter in the tunnel in the Second World War; if correct, then this is certainly that feature. If it was not built as an air raid shelter then what was its purpose and when was it built?

The line across The Stray was heavily debated and is described on Tony Cheal's web site.

This pedestrian bridge, on The Stray, over the railway is taken standing with your back to Tewit Well, a couple of minutes from Norwood and seconds away from Clifton. The former Brunswick Junction is a few hundred yards to the right.

Photograph by David S Pugh
who kindly gave permission to display here

One curious feature about the railway line at this point is that the level of the rails dip slightly to enable trains to pass safely beneath the arch of the bridge - that was certainly the case in the 1950s when you could easily discern the dip. It was also an ideal place to make ha'pennies into pennies by having the train flattern the coin for you. There are two such bridges over The Stray; these are shown on the first of the above maps as being below the word "Stray". A satellite view showing this area is on the Flash Earth web site; both Norwood and Clifton sites are on this view.

In my days in the 1950s, when I lived in Oatlands Mount and attended Norwood, the existence of the tunnel was part reality and part fantasy but it really did exist and I eventually managed to go a few yards into it before being stopped by masses of rubble. We used to visit the rather unsafe area know as The Park or Monkey Island and it needed only a jump over the wooden fence to slither down the embankment and go to the tunnel entrance. The entrance to The Park was a few yards short of the railway bridge on Hookstone Rd. The curious thing is that Charlie never seemed to mention it, probably in case a hoard of Norwood boys suddenly had an urge for exploration. Nevertheless the tunnel was only about 200 yards away from Norwood College behind Royal Crescent or at worst a five minute walk to the boarded-up entrance at Brunswick Junction!

The following photograph, c1965, shows the roundabout at Leeds Rd/Langcliffe Ave and Norwood in the background, right. Directly underneath this roundabout is the old railway tunnel; to the left in the 1850s a short distance away the line would have been visible in the short cutting leading to Brunswick Station and to the right, open land with the tunnel beneath.

Photograph by Bertram Unné included here pending authority from Unnetie
15 May,2007

A very good satellite view of Brunswick Junction is on the Flash Earth web site. Norwood and the Playground, or what they are now of course, are visible on this image - two white-roofed buildings. The former Clifton school is also visible. By clicking on the above link you can slide the map and trace the course of the railway ending in the triangular grassed area bounded by Otley, Trinity and Leeds Roads.

There is an interesting similarity with the railway tunnel beneath Scotland Street in Edinburgh - see Subterranea Britannica web site.

The following image shows the path taken by the line; the location of the west end of the tunnel and the start of the cutting is only tentative.


Photograph by David Pugh

Standing on top of the Harrogate Tunnel at St George's roundabout. Langcliffe Avenue is straight ahead, Leeds Road to left and right.

The web site includes the following photographs:

Looking SE along Langcliffe Ave from St George's roundabout on Leeds Rd. The tunnel entrance from the line into Harrogate is at the far end of the road and the tunnel follows the alignment of this road

stepping back on beyond the roundabout with Langcliffe Ave still visible

the line coninued NW with what is now The Oval, on its right, going towards the terminus at Brunswick Station - just yards beyong the spire of Trinity Church visible in the distance

looking from Wheatlands Rd Bridge towards Hornbeam Station; the red dot indicates the point at which the original railway line would have curved into a short cutting then into the so-called Harrogate Tunnel bound for Brunswick Station

Almost all of the Brunswick Junction cutting is a swamp.

The picture you have been waiting for; the tunnel entrance. Despite the swampy ground outside, the tunnel itself was dry when these photographs were taken..

Photographs by member 'Ordnance'
who kindly gave permission to display here

Photograph by David Pugh

View from front of Trinity Church towards the Prince of Wales roundabout (with flowers); the plaque commemorating Brunswick Station can be seen just over the pavement.

Photograph by David Pugh

The plaque between Trinity Church and Otley Rd reads,

Site of Brunswick Station
of the
York Midland Railway
Opened 20th July 1848
Closed 1st August 1862

Hornbeam Station c1998.
The line to Harrogate Tunnel would have curved to the left immediately beyond what is now the end of the platform. The white appearance of the track bed is due to recently-deposited new ballast.

Photograph by Anthony Eden


Photographs of the Harrogate Tunnel exterior, interior and the air-raid shelter structure can be seen on Leeds Historical Expedition Society web site. There are many photographs on the web site and are well worth looking at but these are included here with the kind permission of the Phill Davison of the LHES.

On 7th February,2008, the Harrogate Advertiser published an article Light at the end of the abandoned tunnel with contributions from Tony Eden and Phill Davison.

Another account by Phill Davison of the tunnel and air raid shelter can be seen on BBC North Yorkshire, The Harrogate Underground.

The 31st January,2008, Yorkshire Evening Post story covering LHES's 'Harrogate' Tunnel expedition is reproduced below.

The eastern tunnel portal close to the present Hornbeam Station. Note the relatively shallow depth of fill between the tunnel and the land surface.

View towards the entrance; The bricked-in entrance glows with daylight showing the two doorways and the higher air ventilation openings.

View from near the entrance to the tunnel with the 1940s brick structure of the air raid shelter. Note the indentations left by removal of the sleepers. That end is just to the west of the St Georges Rd roundabout on Leeds Road and immediately beyong the air raid shelter is the eastern end of the tunnel - now ell and truely burried beneath Park Drive.
"The air raid shelter was built with six foot high blast walls and wooden benches running along both sides of the tunnel. Toilet cubicles were also to be found in all four corners. There was also evidence of electric cabling suggesting there was a light and power supply down there during the war". 105

Your first view of the shelter if you approached from the stairs from Leeds Rd/St Georges Rd roundabout. the bright bluish light in the distance is the tunnel entrance close to (the now) Hornbeam Station.

Looking up the air raid shelter stairs, A narrow passage is at the top of the stairs on the right leading to the final flight of stairs to street level - somewhere in the area of the present roundabout on Leeds Road. Note that when the air raid shelter was constructed the roundabout was not there; small "islands" on each side of Leeds Road accommodated the bus stops with the one on the east side having a very large chestnut tree. The curve visible in this photograph is the western portal of the tunnel - see more detail below.

Note the dressed stonework of the western portal of the tunnel. This is the exit from the air raid shelter right up against the portal of the tunnel - most likely on the western side of Leeds Rd close by Park Drive. There is some rubble blocking the tunnel portal and we must presume that beyond this, where the cutting would have started, is infill now well hidden by Park Drive.

Another photograph, probably from the 1930s,and provided on the LHES web site shows the south portal. The tunnel is very shallow with not much earth above to street level. The house pictured is aptly named 'The Cuttings' on Tewit Well Road and is almost built directly above the tunnel. From here, the tunnel runs directly under Langcliffe Avenue. Photo courtesy of "J.B303" on". Credited to J.C.W.Halliday.

The 31st January,2008, Yorkshire Evening Post story covering LHES's 'Harrogate' Tunnel expedition.

return to the Railways page


The Harrogate Line

BBC North Yorkshire, The Harrogate Underground


105. Phill Davison, BBC North Yorkshire, The Harrogate Underground

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