Category Archives: Channel Tunnel Association Archive

#ArchiveScience

Thursday’s #ExploreArchives theme is #Archive Science

There are scientific reports and studies in our Channel Tunnel Association Archive, concerning the research that went on to make sure that building the tunnel was feasible.

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50 objects 36: Channel Tunnel rock

The Channel Tunnel collection held at Brunel consists mainly of books and of papers such as correspondence, maps, plans, meeting minutes, and photographs. There are also eclectic artefacts such as this piece of rock, in a Eurotunnel branded protective case.

ctun1The packaging reports: “This piece of Chalk Marl has been excavated from the Channel Tunnel by the service tunnel boring machine near the breakthrough point. The Chalk Marl is the lower part of the lower chalk stratum, which stretches from near Folkestone to the coast at Calais and in which the majority of the Channel Tunnel is being excavated. Its grey colour shows that it is a mixture of clay and chalk. The Channel Tunnel is being constructed in this layer because it is more waterproof and consistent with the chalk layers above it.” The information is repeated in French, and so the packets of rock could be used as souvenirs at both ends of the tunnel.

The Chalk Marl is around 100 million years old, and will have had its origin at a time when dinosaurs were still roaming the lands that would become Europe. For more about the geology of the tunnel, see this page. The machines used to create the tunnel had to be made specially, and were each designed to work with the geology of a particular section of tunnel. For more information see The Robbins Company’s page.

ctun2

Channel Tunnel Association plaque, from the same collection

50 objects 18: Perceived effect of the Channel Tunnel on tourism

Amongst the opposition faced by supporters of the Channel Tunnel was the idea that the easier crossing would have a detrimental effect on tourism and related economies in Britain; that, for instance, families from the north of England would holiday in northern France rather than on the south coast of England and so the hotel trade would suffer.

In the late 1920s, a sub-committee of the Channel Tunnel Parliamentary Committee contacted businesses involved in UK tourism to ask for their views on the Tunnel, in particular whether it would help or hinder their business.

Letter showing summary of bodies in favour and against

Letter showing summary of bodies in favour and against

The Channel Tunnel archive holds three files of this correspondence, annotated in blue pencil by the committee, and divided into “in favour”, “against”, and “neutral”. While the majority of the letters are short and business-like, the collection as a whole reflects an intriguing range of attitudes to the Tunnel and to tourism.

The tone ranges from terse to discursive, from uninterested to fiercely invested, and some letters go beyond the tourism issue and investigate other aspects of the Tunnel.

One of the longest and most eloquent letters in the “against” section, pictured below, reasons that not only would the Tunnel be detrimental to the  hotel trade, but it would also lead to problems with foot and mouth disease, with a knock-on negative impact on farming; the shipping industry would also suffer, and “with our glorious traditions of the sea, it would not look well for Britons to enter the Continent by a rat-hole.”

Letter against the Channel Tunnel

Letter against the Channel Tunnel

Selections from letters on all sides of the question

Selections from letters on all sides of the question

50 objects 7: Thames Tunnel diorama

Libraries aren’t just about books, and they’re not just about words. Information can be passed on by images and by physical objects too, and the Thames Tunnel diorama is a great example of this.

Thames Tunnel diorama: view from the front

Thames Tunnel diorama: view from the front

This “peepshow” or perspective diorama is made from a set of printed cards, fastened together in such a way that, when expanded, they are at set distances from each other. The whole thing can be folded flat for storage, but ours has a bespoke box so it can be safely displayed in its expanded form and used as its makers intended. The viewer looks through one or both of the holes in the front image, and is transported into the interior of the tunnel, the set of two-dimensional images transforming into the illusion of a three-dimensional view.

 

Thames Tunnel diorama

Thames Tunnel diorama

Those who wished to were thus able to see at least an artist’s impression of the interior of the famous tunnel without having to venture there themselves. The diorama allows us today to see how the tunnel might have looked in its original state, designed for horse-drawn vehicles and not yet a route for trains.

 

The Thames Tunnel, connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping beneath the river bed, was the first tunnel to be successfully built beneath a navigable river, and pioneered “tunneling shield” technology invented by Marc Isambard Brunel and Thomas Cochrane. Brunel’s son Isambard Kingdom Brunel was heavily involved in the project.

Thames Tunnel diorama: looking inside

Thames Tunnel Diorama: looking inside

When the tunnel and its entrance shaft opened to the public in 1843, they were immensely popular. The entrance and the tunnel itself had sideshows and souvenir shops, and attracted a million visitors in the first three months. The view seen through this diorama is less dramatic and bustling, but shows pedestrians, dressed in the high fashion of the time, admiring the new structure.

The tunnel itself now forms part of the London Overground network, and the entrance shaft forms a concert venue. For more information see http://www.brunel-museum.org.uk/.

Photographs by Sally Trussler.

50 objects 3: Military aspects of the Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel: military aspect of the question. Important address by Rt. Hon Lord Sydenham of Combe.

The idea for the Channel Tunnel was first mooted in 1802, and a brief history of it is set out here and here. Feelings ran high on both sides of the debate, and the Channel Tunnel Association Archive gives an insight into not just the scientific, political, and financial processes involved, but also the personalities and emotions.

The Channel Tunnel: Military Aspect of the Question

The Channel Tunnel: Military Aspect of the Question

“Military aspect of the question” is a case in point. Lord Sydenham of Combe – the first and last bearer of that title – was a military strategist. He served with the Royal Engineers and later became Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and published widely. This is the transcript of his address and the discussion afterwards by Members of Parliament, in the summer of 1914. While facts and theories involving national defence are discussed, the transcript also shows the pride those present took in the Royal Navy, and their belief that the Navy could rise to any occasion; and there are poignant mentions of England’s friendship with France, and their anticipated future of peace.

Objections to the tunnel on security and defence grounds had been made a number of times. The chairman of the meeting reported here, in introducing the speaker and the Channel Tunnel background, noted “it is the military question alone which has for upwards of thirty years prevented the carrying out of this great scheme.”

Pamphlets addressing military aspects of Channel Tunnel

Pamphlets addressing military aspects of Channel Tunnel

Lord Sydenham dismisses the tunnel as a cause for anxiety as a breach of security, showing various ways in which the tunnel could be rendered unusable if taken over by an enemy force, mentioning the advantages it could provide for troop movement during warfare, and ending triumphantly “I hope I have been able to show that there are no valid military objections”.

On tunnels and female freedom fighters: archives inspire local writers

Guest post by Emma Filtness, Creative Writing Tutor

Over the course of this academic year, I have run two more writing workshops with Brunel’s Special Collections. The first involved a session with the Creative Writing class from the Brunel Arts Centre – a mix of staff, students and members of the public – the second with the London Borough of Hillingdon’s Creative Writing group based at Uxbridge Library.

The participants spent an evening browsing a selection of materials from across the collections. The materials were introduced by Katie Flanagan, Special Collections Librarian, who provided the writers with some information on the specific item and the archive or collection it was from, including entries from The Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiogrpahies, editions of the Ladies’ Home Journal from the 1940s and 1950s, items from the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA) and books and memorabilia from the Channel Tunnel Association collection. Participants then picked an item that particularly appealed to them and used it as a springboard for creativity, producing poems, short stories and articles in response to the item they chose.

All our own workA poem and a short story inspired by materials in the collections were recently in an anthology on display as part of the All Our Own Work exhibition at Brunel’s Beldam Gallery.

Memory is a poem by Viraj Chouhan, an Anthropology Master’s student, inspired by an article in issue 18 of Outwrite, a feminist newspaperfrom the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive. “It described the plight of Zimbabwe’s female freedom fighters who had participated in the guerrilla struggle for independence from white colonial rule,” said Viraj, speaking about the article that inspired his poem. “Soon after achieving an independent state, they were somewhat spurned by society, particularly older women who were loathe to let their sons marry these strong-willed girls.”

TunnelsOubliette is a short story by Joseph Norman, an English PhD student and Brunel staff member. His story was inspired by The History of Tunnels by Patrick Beaver in the Channel Tunnel Association archive. “If I’m honest,” said Joseph, “I judged the book initially by its cover: for this edition, a wonderfully gloomy photograph of workers down a coal-mine. This image spoke to me of hardship and toil in an environment largely unfamiliar to myself, and – allowing my imagination to stray somewhat – with connotations of mystery and buried secrets. Flicking through, I isolated key words and phrases that caught my attention. I was struck by the variety of uses that tunnels have had throughout history, but more by the small details of life underground. Most important of the phrases that I chose was “an underground global system to connect the major cities of the Earth,” which forms the premise of my story. During the workshop I wrote a very loose and rambling first-person account of one man’s time working underground. Later I used this as a basis for a dystopian narrative of a man enticed into working underground, seeing the work as an escape from a suggested traumatic past. This gave me plenty of scope to play with metaphors linking tunnels and digging with remembrance and forgetting.”

 

Tunnel turns twenty

A blog post by Joanne Mcphie, Graduate Trainee, Library.

It could come as a surprise to know that our modern miracle of engineering, the Channel Tunnel, actually started out as a twinkle in an engineer’s eye over two hundred and twelve years ago. The speedy journey from London to Paris that we enjoy today might cause you to forget the painstakingly slow build up to the official beginning of transit on the 6th May 1994. This process can be seen in the huge collection of documents in our Channel Tunnel Association Archive, which contains everything from the details of engineer’s reports to the splendour of the Opening Day memorabilia and the overview of monographs on the history.

© Copyright Groupe Eurotunnel

© Copyright Groupe Eurotunnel

The history of the Tunnel is one of frustrated schemes and historical disruptions. Frenchman Albert Mathieu first suggested a passageway between France and England in 1802. While he had the vision, he hadn’t really considered the practicalities of such a plan and thought a tunnel could be dug through the soft chalk under the sea bed with horse-drawn stagecoaches passing through. Subsequently, though Napoleon Bonaparte was receptive to the idea initially, war between the two nations disrupted any permanent connections.

Progress continued in this stop and start vein for almost the next two hundred years. A second plan was envisioned in 1830 by another Frenchman,Thome de Gamond, who spent the next thirty years sketching maps for it, but it wasn’t until 1868 that a proper committee between the two nations was formed.

Thome de Garond's 1856 plan to cross the Channel

Following quickly (by Tunnel standards) in 1872 The Channel Tunnel Company was registered, but it was to remain largely ineffectual as it had no funding to complete research. Ground was broken in 1878-9 on both sides of the Channel, but the attempt was abandoned due to fears of French soldiers marching through the tunnel to conquer England. Although there were a few more efforts at generating interest, serious plans were not resuscitated until after the First World War. Strangely, while fears of invasion had quashed earlier endeavours, it was a belief that the Tunnel would have shortened WW1 and given the Allies an advantage that gave rise to another Parliament vote in 1930. The thought was that it would have been an excellent supply corridor, impervious to naval barrage. 1921 Booklet recommending the Tunnel

However, it was not until 1953 that military protestations were relaxed enough to seriously consider the scheme. In 1964 both the French and British government agreed that the Tunnel would be a good idea and to look into the costing and technical issues. Work began in 1970 to a mixed report in the press, but it became apparent that the cost of the Tunnel would be too high and it stopped in 1975. In 1984 the decision was taken that private investors had to be found. This opened the way for commercial companies like Eurotunnel to bid and the Tunnel became the profitable venture we know today, finally opening officially in May 1994.

The Channel Tunnel Association collection offers a comprehensive look at the history of the Tunnel, with particular information on the 1930 Parliament vote and including the papers of the Channel Tunnel Company and the Channel Tunnel Association. It includes correspondence, press cuttings articles, statistics and plans, as well as photographs and objects. 3D Tunnel PerspectiveFor more detail visit our webpage and learn more about the roots of one of Britain’s great engineering feats.