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For those interested in esoteric tunnels connecting isolated beaches with the headland above, Subterranea Britannica has an intriguing entry that mirrors another little-known location – the Marshall Meadows Seaweed Railway in Northumberland – featured previously on Urban Ghosts. Enter the brick-lined “Seaweed Tunnel” of Pegwell Bay, Kent.
Despite being at opposite ends of the country, the two tunnels are strikingly similar, both in appearance and the names by which they’ve been known to locals for generations.
Marshall Meadows Seaweed Railway, Northumberland
(Image: Berwick Time Lines; the so-called Marshall Meadows Seaweed Railway)
The origins and indeed purpose of the so-called “Seaweed Railway” at Marshall Meadows, the northernmost point of England located around 2.5 miles from Berwick-on-Tweed, have been long debated. Some have claimed that farmers used a rudimentary, cable-hauled railway to transport kelp from the beach to the fields above. Others, however, remain skeptical that farmers would have bored through solid rock and installed machinery, suggesting instead that the 240 ft tunnel was dug by fishermen at a time when the salmon industry thrived along the Northumberland coast.
Whatever the real story may be, any solid evidence that the long-abandoned tunnel at Marshall Meadows ever housed a working railway, cableway or rudimentary tramway has yet to come to light.
Seaweed Tunnel, Pegwell Bay, Kent
(Image: Dan Hogben; upper portal of the Pegwell Bay Seaweed Tunnel)
Driven through the chalk cliffs from the headland above Pegwell Bay, the Seaweed Tunnel boasts a more refined design than its rugged northern counterpart. But otherwise the mysterious tunnels have a number of commonalities, suggesting they may have been built with similar agricultural goals in mind.
Subterranea Britannica makes no mention of a railway in connection with the Kent tunnel, which doesn’t help strengthen the argument that one once ran through the tunnel at Marshall Meadows, either. But its apparently colloquial name – the Seaweed Tunnel – may lend credence to the idea that the Marshall Meadows Seaweed Railway was indeed built by farmers for the transportation of kelp.
(Image: Dan Hogben; the lower portal emerging into Pegwell Bay)
We may never know for certain what their original uses were. But one cannot leave this story before considering the question of smugglers. Claims that the Marshall Meadows Seaweed Railway was once used as a smugglers’ tunnel has been largely dismissed as folklore. But near the Pegwell Bay Seaweed Tunnel is another, much smaller passageway reportedly known as Frank Illingworth’s Tunnel after the man who documented it in 1938. Illingworth opined that this narrow bore was indeed a smugglers’ tunnel.
According to Subterranea Britannica: “At that time, it apparently went much further than today and Illingworth found an ancient pistol and three buttons from an excise man’s tunic. The tunnel slopes slightly towards the beach and, since the cliff is continuously being eroded away, it is possible that it emerged at beach level when in use.”
This article first appeared on www.urbanghostsmedia.com
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