History in Structure

Railway tunnel portals MVL3/40, east end of Standedge Tunnel

A Grade II Listed Building in Colne Valley, Kirklees

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Latitude: 53.6033 / 53°36'11"N

Longitude: -1.9421 / 1°56'31"W

OS Eastings: 403928

OS Northings: 411860

OS Grid: SE039118

Mapcode National: GBR GVWS.B1

Mapcode Global: WHB91.4PGH

Plus Code: 9C5WJ335+85

Entry Name: Railway tunnel portals MVL3/40, east end of Standedge Tunnel

Listing Date: 11 July 1985

Last Amended: 23 March 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1224282

English Heritage Legacy ID: 420301

ID on this website: 101224282

Location: Marsden, Kirklees, West Yorkshire, HD7

County: Kirklees

Electoral Ward/Division: Colne Valley

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Marsden St Bartholomew

Church of England Diocese: Leeds

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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Three railway tunnel portals at the east end of Standedge Tunnel; the centre portal built in 1845-1849 by the contractor Thomas Nicholson and engineer Alfred Stanistreet Jee for the Huddersfield & Manchester Railway line, the south portal built at the same time, in advance of a tunnel excavated in 1868-1871, and the north portal built in 1890-1894 for the London & North Western Railway.


Three railway tunnel portals at the east end of Standedge Tunnel; the centre portal built between 1845 and 1849 by the contractor Thomas Nicholson and engineer Alfred Stanistreet Jee for the Huddersfield & Manchester Railway line, the south portal built at the same time, in advance of a tunnel excavated between 1868 and 1871, and the north portal built between 1890 and 1894 for the London & North Western Railway.

MATERIALS: brick arches, coursed and squared quarry-faced gritstone walls, and ashlar dressings.

DESCRIPTION: the east portals of the three bores of Standedge Tunnel are situated in a deep cutting at Tunnel End, Marsden. All three portals are set into a coursed and squared quarry-faced gritstone wall. The centre portal and the south portal were both built between 1845 and 1849 and have a matching design; each portal has a brick horseshoe arch flanked by battered quarry-faced stone buttresses. Running above the arches and across the buttresses is a moulded ashlar stringcourse and blocking course, acting as a cornice to terminate the structure. These two portals were originally each for a single track railway, although the bore of the south portal was not excavated until 1868-1871; the entrance constructed earlier in anticipation of the tunnel. The north tunnel portal was built for a double track between 1890-1894 and is therefore taller and wider than its neighbours. It is formed of a Staffordshire blue brick horseshoe arch set within an ashlar roll moulding. Flanking the arch are two projecting quarry-faced buttresses or piers whilst above it is a dentilled cornice and a scalloped parapet that rises over an ashlar date stone at the centre, inscribed: 1894.


In contrast to the main trunk lines of the late 1830s that were constructed by single railway companies the route from Stalybridge to Leeds had fragmented origins and was the work of three different railway companies: the Huddersfield & Manchester Railway, Leeds, Dewsbury & Manchester Railway, and the Manchester & Leeds Railway.

The Huddersfield & Manchester Railway was authorised in 1845 and followed the route of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal for much of its length, including a railway tunnel through the Pennine hills set alongside the earlier Standedge Canal Company tunnel of 1811; in 1846 the railway company also acquired the canal. Joseph Locke and Alfred Stanistreet Jee were appointed to survey and design the new line, the two engineers having already worked together on a major project linking Manchester and Sheffield. Jee became the lead engineer for the Huddersfield line, which passed through challenging terrain, assisted by resident engineers that included his brother Moreland Jee (until 1848) and Herbert F Mackworth. Construction of the line was divided into various contracts, with many contractors being only responsible for a single cutting, viaduct or tunnel portal. The largest contract for the Standedge Tunnel between Diggle and Marsden was let to a single contractor, Thomas Nicholson in 1847. The tunnel's completion in 1849 marked the opening of the line.

The Leeds end of the route, which was also authorised in 1845, was constructed by the Leeds, Dewsbury & Manchester Railway. The engineer was Thomas Grainger who had previously largely worked in Scotland, and the line was completed in 1849.

A short three-mile section of the route between Heaton Lodge Junction and Thornhill Junction near Mirfield was developed by the Manchester & Leeds Railway and was constructed between 1837 and 1840, with George Stephenson as the chief engineer. The structures on this line were designed by Thomas Gooch under the oversight of Stephenson. In 1847 the railway company changed its name to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway.

In 1847 the Huddersfield & Manchester Railway and the Leeds, Dewsbury & Manchester Railway were acquired by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) so that the company could access the city of Leeds and the textile towns of West Yorkshire. This pitted them as rivals to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, although at points on the route the two companies had to work together. By 1851 the London & North Western Railway had an overall mileage of railway track of 800 miles and it became the most prominent railway company in the country and the largest joint-stock concern in the world in the late C19. Although the LNWR had a general manager, Captain Mark Huish, the lines of the Stalybridge to Leeds route still managed their own affairs. LNWR later carried out expansion works, including the widening of tracks and bridges, the construction of additional tunnels, and station alterations. In 1923 the line became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway, and subsequently part of the nationalised British Railways in 1948. The line, its structures and track are currently (2018) owned by Network Rail, and the passenger services operated by TransPennine Express and Northern Rail.

Standedge Tunnel is one of eight operational tunnels on the North TransPennine route. Situated at the Pennine watershed between Diggle and Marsden, it presented a major engineering challenge. The tunnel includes four interconnected bores of different dates; a canal tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and three railway tunnels, although only one railway tunnel and the canal tunnel are now in operational use. There are eight ventilation shafts along its course. Railway engineers inherited known tunnelling techniques from the canal building era: the use of preliminary exploratory borings, followed by the making of working shafts and pilot headings before the main excavation commenced. The canal tunnel at Standedge was initially constructed under the engineers Benjamin Outram and Nicholas Brown and completed over a 16 year period from 1793 to 1811. Over three miles long, it remains the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain; a wonder of its age. The first railway tunnel was begun by the Huddersfield & Manchester Railway in 1845 and completed in 1849 at a cost of £201,608. It was driven immediately to the south of, but at a slightly higher level than, the canal tunnel. The tunnel is 3 miles 62 yards long and was recorded as the longest railway tunnel in the world at that time; albeit exceeded in length by the parallel canal tunnel (The Engineer, 21 June 1861, 378). The engineers obviated the need for vertical construction shafts by accessing the railway tunnel through 13 adits (cross passages) connected to the canal tunnel. This allowed it to be constructed much more rapidly, by using boats along the canal for access and removal of spoil or other materials. Up to 1,953 men were employed in its construction and there were nine fatalities. The tunnel entrances were faced in stone with a horseshoe arch serving as the east portal and a Tudor arch at the west. Internally, it was lined with stone or open to the rock except where the strata was delaminating and subsequently required brick patching.

A second railway tunnel was begun in 1868, the earlier single-track tunnel having proved to be a bottleneck for rail traffic between Huddersfield and Manchester. This had always been conceived; the earlier portal design including two entrances at each end, anticipating a second bore from the outset. Construction was undertaken by the engineer William Baker and contractor Thomas Nelson. It was completed in 1871, again utilising cross adits during construction. The tunnel comprises a brick lining and is of similar dimensions and construction to the first tunnel, being situated immediately to the south of it. At the mid-point the two bores are connected by a groin vaulted cross-heading, now known as the ‘Cathedral’.

A third, double-track, railway tunnel was built between 1890 and 1894 by the London & North Western Railway and completed by the sub-contractors Williams, Lees & Thomas. This formed part of the quadrupling of the line between Huddersfield and Manchester. This tunnel is the northernmost of the four bores and was constructed via adits from the first railway tunnel. In order to allow the new railway tracks to cross the canal tunnel in the open at Diggle, a new cut and cover extension lined in cast-iron was added to the canal tunnel at this end. The west entrance to the canal tunnel is now around 270m to the south-west of the railway tunnel portals at Diggle. The east entrance at Marsden (Grade II*-listed) is just over 50m north-east of the railway tunnel portals and set lower down, next to a pair of early-C19 tunnel keeper’s cottages (Grade II-listed). The River Colne also crosses over the two tracks of the railway in a steel and stone aqueduct at this end (Grade II-listed). All the railway tunnels had locomotive water pick-up troughs, over 450m long and fixed to the tunnel walls at the Diggle end, ensuring that steam trains had enough water for the journey. The third railway tunnel is the largest of the tunnel bores and was given more impressive portals; at both ends these consist of a horseshoe arch within an ashlar roll moulding, flanking buttresses, and a cornice with a date stone. Internally it has a brick arch and side walls, with concrete inverts in places. Approximately 25 million bricks, fired-locally, were used in its construction. This final tunnel is the only one still in operational use. Both of the earlier railway tunnels closed by 1970, following the reduction of the four track section between Huddersfield and Stalybridge to two tracks, and they are now used for emergency and maintenance road access. Diggle Station, at the west end of the Standedge Tunnel, also closed at around this time. The canal tunnel became unsafe and officially closed in 1944 before being de-silted and restored at a cost of £5m, re-opening in 2001. A former warehouse at Marsden (Grade II-listed), used for the transshipment of goods from canal barge to packhorse in the C19, is now a visitor centre. In 2004 repair and stabilisation work was undertaken to the 1849 rail tunnel.

Reasons for Listing

Standedge Tunnel east portals, constructed in 1845-1849 for the Huddersfield & Manchester Railway and 1890-1894 for the London & North Western Railway, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:
* as entrances to Standedge Tunnel, recorded as the longest railway tunnel in the world at the time of its initial construction;
* as a physical manifestation of the engineering feat of excavating a tunnel over three miles long under extremely challenging conditions, employing nearly 2,000 men, including several who lost their lives;
* for the two portals constructed in 1845-49, during the heroic age of railway building, by the notable railway engineer Alfred Stanistreet Jee;
* for the double-track portal of 1890-94, which well demonstrates the later development of the railway line and Standedge Tunnel;

Architectural interest:
* the tunnel portals are well constructed and well detailed, including three horseshoe arches, flanked by buttresses and set into a quarry-faced gritstone wall surmounted by an ashlar cornice and parapet, lifting their design above the purely functional;
* the tunnel portals retain a high degree of survival of the original fabric;

Group value:
* with the three railway portals at the west end of Standedge Tunnel, the Grade II*-listed east portal of the canal tunnel which was the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel ever built in Britain; a wonder of its age, as well as the Grade II-listed aqueduct, tunnel keeper’s cottages and transhipment warehouse within the Marsden (Tunnel End) Conservation Area. Collectively these structures tell the story of the construction, evolution and expansion of the transport network across the Pennines.

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