Clayton Tunnel is located near to the village of Clayton, West Sussex on the London - Brighton Main Line between Hassocks and Preston Park Stations.
Designed by innovative Victorian architect David Mocatta, who also designed Brighton Station and the Ouse Valley Viaduct, construction was completed in 1841 after 3 years. The tunnel is 1¼ miles long and up to 270 feet below ground level. The build was completed of £90,000 with the edifice built as a condition of the farmer who owned the land.
The north portal of the tunnel is a beautiful example of gothic architecture and a Grade II listed building. Two imposing crenelated octagonal towers, finished in white Caen stone, sit either side of the tunnel entrance, above which sits the Tunnel Keepers Cottage. The single storey cottage was added in 1849, designed by JU Rustrick, it was built in contrasting red brick and sits curiously off centre.
The tunnel keepers role included the relighting of the gas lights snuffed out by the passing steam trains. The lights, placed at intervals along the tunnels white washed brick lining, were intended to provide illumination of the long tunnel in order to make it appear less frightening for passengers in the open coaches. The system was successful until train speeds increased making the almost constant task of relighting the lamps impractical and the system was shut down.
Ventilation shafts were bored from the surface to aid smoke removal and it is possible to follow the underground route by the line of large chimneys between the tunnel entrance.
On 25th August 1861 the tunnel was the scene of the worst ever accident on this line. Three trains left Brighton in quick succession. Due to a signalling failure and subsequent misunderstanding by the signalman, the second train stopped in the tunnel to avoid catching the first. The third continued into the tunnel with fateful consequences which left of 200 people dead or injured.
Published in 1865, the tunnel and it’s accident proved inspiration for Charles Dickens’ ghost story The Signalman. It is of no surprise therefore that the cottage and tunnel are rumoured to be haunted with screams and cries being heard, but this could just be the wildlife trying to get in or the wind blowing through the ventilation shafts.
The surrounding countryside is home to a rich variety of plants, birds of prey and wild animals including foxes, deer, badgers and rabbits.
Today the tunnel and its cottage are owned by Network Rail with the cottage occupied as private accommodation so I respectfully request that you do not disturb the residents.
You are looking for the usual 35mm film canister.
I hope you enjoy this cache and thanks for visiting.