Ramsgate Tunnels

by In Reach Of The Skies June. 16, 2021 200 views

We have some time off this week and were keeping it local today with a visit to Ramsgate Tunnels. It's only taken about 8 years since they first opened to get around to going!

The tunnels originated when a main line railway station was built right on Ramsgate seafront to provide direct access to the beach and harbour area as the nearest station was over a mile inland. A tunnel was cut to connect the station to the mainline. It served until 1926 when Southern Railway re-routed the mainline and ended the service. Subsequently a narrow gauge 'scenic' railway used the tunnel to give holiday makers easier access to the beach and this survived until 1965 and the tunnels were then closed up. The tunnels heyday, however, was perhaps 25 years before:

In WWI Ramsgate had the dubious honour of being one of the heaviest bombed towns in England being the subject of several Zeppelin raids. Even today a couple of small car parks in the middle of a Victorian terrace provide evidence of buildings destroyed in a Zeppelin raid that were never rebuilt. So, when WWII loomed the local Mayor pushed for a series of tunnels to be built under Ramsgate to provide air raid shelter for 30,000 locals. Permission was eventually given by the Home Office in spring 1939 and 3.25 miles of tunnels were completed 2 days before the outbreak of the war. The tunnels connected to the old railway tunnel and provided air raid safety to all.

The heaviest raid was on 25th August 1940 when over 500 bombs were dropped in 5 minutes and although 31 people died this compared with 28 deaths from just 28 Zeppelin bombs in WWI. Only 84 people in Ramsgate died during raids during the whole of the war as a result of the tunnels.

Today the tunnels have been reopened to give an indictaion of life underground during WWII although presently there are some restrictions in access to smaller tunnels due to Covid-19. There is a museum area and a short film and guided tour fully explain how things were 80 years ago.

Peter

Part of the main tunnel, now a museum area

Part of the main tunnel, now a museum area

Coffin used for recovering war dead. The panel on top opens for viewing purposes and after a positive ID the deceased was transferred to another coffin and this one re-used. A bit grim.

Coffin used for recovering war dead. The panel on top opens for viewing purposes and after a positive ID the deceased was transferred to another coffin and this one re-used. A bit grim.

Link to tunnels under the town. Access currently restricted due to Covid-19.

Link to tunnels under the town. Access currently restricted due to Covid-19.

Typical living area within the railway tunnel.

Typical living area within the railway tunnel.

Sleeping area, screened, within the main tunnel.

Sleeping area, screened, within the main tunnel.

Another type of screened sleeping area.

Another type of screened sleeping area.

Main tunnel. In the background are the screened living/sleeping areas.

Main tunnel. In the background are the screened living/sleeping areas.

Scale model of the seafront railway terminus prior to closure in 1926

Scale model of the seafront railway terminus prior to closure in 1926

The old main station has long gone and the area has seen different uses over the decades including funfair and zoo type attractions. Currently this hotel/apartment and small shopping complex is being constructed.

The old main station has long gone and the area has seen different uses over the decades including funfair and zoo type attractions. Currently this hotel/apartment and small shopping complex is being constructed.


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Gary Watson 3 months ago

Amazing what's on your own doorstep and so much history. And a safe haven from air-raids too.

3 months ago Edited
Gethin Thomas 3 months ago

Really interesting blog. I had never heard of these. Will definitely put on my list if ever in that area.

3 months ago Edited
In Reach Of The Skies Replied to Gethin Thomas 3 months ago

Thanks. Yes, put it on your list, we found it very interesting and plans are afoot to develop the attraction further.

3 months ago Edited
Thomas Thompson 3 months ago

Thanks for the tour and the history on those good captures

3 months ago Edited
In Reach Of The Skies Replied to Thomas Thompson 3 months ago

You are welcome 😊

3 months ago Edited
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