1880 Channel Tunnel

Many proposals had been made for a Channel Tunnel dating as far back as Napoleonic times and in 1875 serious planning began on both sides of the Channel. However, early attempts on the English side were not very successful and flooding was a continual problem. In 1880 a test shaft was sunk at Abbot’s Cliff near Folkestone, followed by a second shaft at Shakespeare Cliff in 1881. The tunnel was expected to be completed by 1886, but the British Government were beginning to grow increasingly concerned that the Tunnel would render Britain extremely vulnerable in the face of an invading army from Europe (by this time recently unified Germany were perceived as posing the greatest military threat to Britain). The government remained concerned; very little work proceeded after 1882 and the project was forcibly abandoned in 1898 when bring was permanently restrained through the High Court.

Today the wooden props within the original shaft are rotten and crumple very easily and chalk falls are numerous. As the tunnel slopes downwards, the height of water begins to increase until a point is reached beyond which access is not possible.

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