Saturday, 13 June 2009

Ramsgate Tunnels and our secret weapon.

As most people are probably aware the chalk under this area and particularly Ramsgate is riddled with tunnels some dating back to prehistoric times.

We have a long history of tunnelling. The earliest written record of the chalk caves in this area, that I can find, is in Leland’s Itinerary, he visited East Kent in the early 1500s. ‘There is a Cave wher Men have sowt and digged for Treasure. I saw yt by Candel withyn and there were Conys. Yt was so straite that I had no mynd to crepe far yn.’

By straite he would have meant narrow.

The main tunnel system in the town started as the railway tunnel to the sands station opened in 1863as you can imagine I publish a book about the history of the Ramsgate railways click here for sample pages from it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the sands station click here for some pictures of it.

This tunnel closed for main line traffic in 1926 a spur tunnel was dug to Hereson Road for a narrow gauge electric railway between Dumpton Park station and the main sands this opened in 1936 this ran until 1965 only closing for WW2.

The main expansion was in WW2 when a great more tunnelling was done to provide the town with an airraid shelter system, as you can imagine I publish a book about the tunnels click here for sample pages.

As a youth in Ramsgate in the 60s before the entrances were sealed I like many others explored the tunnel system.

Talking to some of the youth of today, today I gathered two things of note, firstly that several of the entrances are open at the moment and it is possible for them to get in, this is a fairly regular occurrence and I believe always will be.

All of the youth of Ramsgate know that there is this huge tunnel system to explore, parts of it have become dangerous which makes it even more attractive, from personal experience I can tell you that the biggest danger down there is running out of light.

The other thin of note is that workmen are working down in the tunnels and the rumour is that there is going to be some sort of gun range down there.

Two thoughts here the first being that the tunnel system is a considerable potential tourist attraction and the second that if they intend to keep firearms down there the problem would be that the tunnels are impossible to secure.


  1. "impossible to secure"


    bulkhead - firing range - bulkhead

    So easy it's child's play. C'mon Micheal, less of the Daily Wail style please.

  2. Jean over the years many attempts have been made to secure the tunnels none have succeeded although it is possible to make a very strong bulkhead the chalk is not strong so I suspect people would go round it rather than through it.

  3. When I was a nipper I had a curious dream that Thanet had its own Underground system like London's. I can still remember it vividly today. Then years later I moved to London - it seemed my dream had come true. Sadly, however, I moved back to Thanet and it all turned into a nightmare ;-)

  4. er, as a former tunnel engineer who has extensive experience of tunneling through chalk I can safely say that your concerns are unfounded. The idea that someone would get hold of suitable mining equipment and have sufficient skill and time to tunnel round a bulkhead is ludicrous.

  5. 10.52 Unfortunately the people of Ramsgate don’t appear to know that you need special equipment and engineering qualifications to tunnel through the chalk and have been doing so since prehistoric times.

  6. We used the Townley Castle entrance in the 1960's and the bricked up access to the railway tunnel had long been breached. This gave a clear run from Dumpton to Ramsgate sands and definitely no hi-tech equipment was used. The hard part was to exit from the tunnels without looking conspicuous.

    Perhaps the challenge was character forming, as for our small group 2 went into the police, 1 RAF engineering apprentice, 1 mechanical engineering apprentice, although I don't think any of us used this exploit in our cv's.

    The old railway tunnel sounds like an ideal spot for a small bore range with space to construct a hardened alarmed cell if arms and ammunition needed to be kept on site. In fact there used to be a shooting gallery at the entrance to Merry England witch used pump action .22's

  7. Oh please, give me strength. Drill out a pattern of 3m rock bolts around the bulkhead - not even Captain Scarlet would get through it. Or concrete a 3m section of lining.

    I'll confess that a driven bunch of kids with teaspoons welded to nail clippers would eventually get in but I rather suspect they'd be discovered in process.

    Pick your fights Micheal or you'll lose credibility.

  8. 15.53 while I bow to your superior knowledge may I point out that the council has gone to fairly extreme measures to seal up the tunnel entrances, steel doors, concrete, engineering bricks, backfilling the entrances that one can see, the youth of today tell me that no less than three are open at the moment.

    If you viddy the video at you will see as an example of a hole through a brick wall, I rather doubt a teaspoon made it.

    There is plenty of evidence of people older than kids armed with pickaxes possibly dwarfs so I still don’t think it the best place to store firearms.

    I am not looking for a fight here, to me it’s just one of many public safety issues that I would rather the council handled properly so I could get on with producing local history books, rather than having to tackle them.

  9. as a child in the sixties we used to go in at haine hospital and come out at newington banks, also east and west cliffs, hereson rd. the town is riddled with tunnels and no type of blockage ever stopped us.


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