The Leeds railway tunnel memorial known as the 'Navvy's Monument'

It provides a lasting reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by more than 20 railway tunnel construction workers.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 11:30 am
PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

The memorial on Church Lane in Otley was built in remembrance of the men who were killed during the construction of the Bramhope Tunnel by the Leeds and Thirsk Railway on the Harrogate line.

It opened in 1849 and took four years to build during which time 23 workers lost their lives.

There were so many injuries at the site that a specially sprung cart was provided for Leeds General Infirmary to take casualties the seven miles to the hospital.

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PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

The tunnel is 2.138 miles, or 3.441km in length, 25ft high, and runs between Horsforth Station and Arthington Viaduct.

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At peak times during its construction as many as 2,300 men and 400 horses were employed. There were quarrymen, stonemasons, tunnel men, labourers and carpenters all living in makeshift accommodation in a field opposite Bramhope Cemetery.

Known as the 'Navvy's Monument' it was built between 1845 and 1849 and is a replica of the tunnel's North Portal entrance, located in Long Balk Wood, to the north of Bramhope village.

An A3 emerges from Bramhope Tunnel in February 1958.

Originally the monument was built in Caen stone at a cost of £300 but it became eroded and decayed and had to be replaced in the early 1900s.

Two of these photos are published courtesy of photographic archive Leodis, which is run by Leeds Library & Information Service. They also run heritage blog The Secret Library Leeds, which provides a behind the scenes look at the Central Library and highlights from its special collections, including rare books hidden away in the stacks.

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A message from the Editor:

A view of the North Portal of Bramhope Tunnel, looking south along the tracks, and showing the Grade II listed crenelated structure and the large and small towers in January 2021. PIC: Philip Wilde

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