History in Structure

Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels

A Grade II Listed Building in Wallsend, South Tyneside

More Photos »
Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 54.9871 / 54°59'13"N

Longitude: -1.4872 / 1°29'13"W

OS Eastings: 432913

OS Northings: 565959

OS Grid: NZ329659

Mapcode National: GBR LB1S.T1

Mapcode Global: WHD4R.4X25

Plus Code: 9C6WXGP7+V4

Entry Name: Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels

Listing Date: 3 May 2000

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1380276

English Heritage Legacy ID: 480104

ID on this website: 101380276

Location: Howdon Pans, North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, NE28

County: South Tyneside

Electoral Ward/Division: Riverside

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Wallsend

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Tyne and Wear

Church of England Parish: Jarrow Grange

Church of England Diocese: Durham

Tagged with: Pedestrian tunnel Cycling tunnel Pedestrian tunnel

Find accommodation in



1022/7/10025 (South,off)

03-MAY-00 Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist


PLAN: Two narrow parallel tunnels under the River Tyne are approached on each side of the river by deep double escalators and lifts from circular head buildings with adjacent lift buildings. The tunnels are 900 feet long, with escalator tunnels of 200ft each.

Entrance buildings: each single-storey circular building is constructed of red brick, on a blue brick plinth, with a shallow curved concrete shell dome and asphalt roof covering. The main entrance is a double opening with square central and side piers. To either side are tripartite windows with central doors giving access to the machinery and service points. There are two further tripartite windows to the entrance hall and six further similar windows at the rear, the central pair with louvered shutters. Each is a circular, brick single-storey structure with a shallow curved concrete shell dome.

Lift houses: each square building is constructed of red brick with chamfered corners and a flat concrete roof; there are lower square projections to each face, that to the front with square columns forming an open porch. The side and rear projections have a single boarded opening, above a rear projection and louvered ventilation opening. Full height walls have replaced low walls surmounted by metal balustrades.

Entrance Halls: each has a tiled floor and tiled green dado and a pair of very deep escalators with brushed aluminium decoration. To either side of the escalators there are rooms containing associated original machinery including two Waygood-Otis electric motors.

Escalators: the four escalators are original 1951 Waygood-Otis escalators each with 306 wooden steps. They are examples of the heavy-duty MH type, manufactured from 1931 to 1961, designed for rises of up to 27.5 metres and the same type as installed to serve the London Underground (108 in total). The steps are metal-backed 5-ply (17 mm) birch plywood board with 29 maple wood cleats (20x15mm), with a metal fire cleat and brush (fitted later) at each side of the step to prevent cigarette ends and matches falling down the clearance between the steps and the skirting board. The risers are metal-backed shaped American oak boards (ex. 28x225mm). This type of step was patented by Otis in 1928. At either side of the step there is a 7 ply (21 mm) plywood skirting board, which is in sections running the full length of the escalator and is backed by a steel angle. The handrails are made of fabric bonded rubber with steel tape inserts and vulcanized joints running on a metal handrail guide, supported above the decking. The Tyne's escalators' balustrading, decking and side-panels are not polished plywood characteristic of the type, but are covered with green marbled linoleum secured by aluminium framing. At each escalator entrance landing at the upper and lower ends, the balustrading bulkheads are in brushed cast aluminium. The vertical ends incorporate the switch-off key escutcheons, barrier chains, number of the escalator and at the upper ends, colour enamel filled, bronze County shields for Northumberland and Durham, by Martyn & Co. Ltd. The 2 metre length of landing balustrading is clad in brushed steel panelling, incorporating a Waygood-Otis circular logo badge. The wooden steps of the Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnel escalators are the same design as the earlier all wood L, M & MX Type Otis escalators.

Tunnels: the pedestrian and cycle tunnels are arched and clad in tiles, green at dado with dark green strip, and cream tiles above. The centre of the tunnels have tile signage indicating 'COUNTY OF NORTHUMBERLAND' and 'COUNTY OF DURHAM'.

Pedestrian, cycle and road tunnels beneath the River Tyne were first proposed in 1920, but it was 1937 before that the scheme was seriously taken up by Durham and Northumberland County Councils. A Tyne Tunnel Act was passed in 1946 which led to the construction of the pedestrian and cyclists tunnels between 1947 and 1951; restrictions on capital expenditure meant that the road tunnel was not begun and its construction was postponed until 1961-7. The Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels were constructed to provide access primarily for the large numbers of people who worked at the shipyards, lead and chemical works which lined the River Tyne; this industry was an integral part of the economic and social context in which Tyneside developed. An average of 17,000 people travelled through the tunnels each day to get to work, peaking at 20,000. The steady decline of industry, especially shipbuilding, greatly reduced the usage of the tunnels.

The tunnels were constructed to the designs of Durham and Northumberland County Council's Engineer's Departments. The Civil Engineering Contractor was Charles Brand & Son Ltd. of London under the supervision of Dr. (later Sir) David Anderson of Mott, Hay & Anderson, Consulting Civil Engineers of London. The resident Engineer at Howdon was Mr J. Kell. Ceramic Tiling was by Carter & Co., Poole founded in 1873, which became part of Pilkington Tiles in 1964. The escalators are original (1951) by Waygood-Otis. R Waygood and Co. formed in 1842 and by 1906 was the Uk's largest manufacturer of lifts; the London-based company was acquired by Otis Elevation Co. in 1914/16 becoming Waygood-Otis. The tunnels were opened by Alfred Barnes, Minister of Transport on 24 July 1951, apparently incomplete, and were promoted as Tyneside's contribution to the Festival of Britain, whose celebrations were held in London between 3 May and 30 September 1951. There are similarities between the reinforced concrete roofs of the Rotunda buildings and that of the main pavilion at the Festival of Britain, the Dome of Discovery, designed by Ralph Tubbs.

At their opening, the tunnels were the longest subterranean passages and the first purpose-built cycle tunnel in the UK; they were also the first to be used by both cyclists and pedestrians. Today they remain as one of four purpose built pedestrian tunnels under rivers still operating in the UK. Following the model of St Anna Tunnel, Antwerp (1931-3), the engineers used a similar system of connecting the tunnels to their surface buildings via two escalators and a lift at either end. This was unlike earlier tunnels such as Greenwich (1902) and Woolwich (1912) which relied on steps and lifts to provide access. The Tyne Tunnels are the only pedestrian tunnels beneath a river provided with escalators, and those in the cyclist tunnel were the first designed especially for cyclists, incorporating special safety features. At their opening, these escalators were the longest single span escalators in Western Europe, the highest vertical-rise escalators in the world and today they are the longest working wooden escalators in the world, the remaining other five examples are of a shorter form.

Manders, F and Potts, R Crossing The Tyne (2001) 92-95
Spence and Dower Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels: Howdon to Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, Conservation Plan Report (2010)

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The Tyne pedestrian and cycle tunnels constructed between 1947 and 1951 are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic: as the first purpose-built combined pedestrian and cycle tunnels in the United Kingdom which constituted the area's contribution to the 1951 Festival of Britain
* Intactness: all elements of the system are retained and are little altered including the surface buildings, escalators, original machinery and the individual tunnels
* Escalators: the four wooden Waygood-Otis escalators with their original motors and machinery are rare survivals both in a national and international context and are the longest continuous wooden escalators in the world
* Architectural: as a good example of post-war municipal design using contemporary materials and exhibiting interesting detailing
* Economic and social: the tunnels were essential to the C20 development of Tyneside as they allowed mass access for workers from their homes to the heavy industries which lined the Tyne.

Listing NGR: NZ3291365959

The asset was previously listed twice also in the parish of Jarrow at List entry 1380275. This entry was removed from the List on 7 June 2017.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.