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HER Number:MDV120669
Name:Coryton's Tunnel, Dawlish


Railway tunnel initially constructed for the South Devon Railway in 1846 and subsequently widened; the north portal being replaced in the late 19th/early 20th century. Named after Jane Coryton, landowner of this stretch of coast in the 19th century. One of five tunnels on the South Devon Railway between Teignmouth and Dawlish.


Grid Reference:SX 960 758
Map Sheet:SX97NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDawlish
Ecclesiastical ParishDAWLISH

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • RAILWAY TUNNEL (Built, XIX - 1801 AD to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

Coryton Tunnel marked on the Great Western railway.

Garnsworthy, P., 2013, Brunel's Atmostpheric Railway, 50-51 (Monograph). SDV360708.

The location of Coryton Tunnel and its east portal are shown on one of a series of watercolours by William Dawson of Brunel's Atmospheric Railway in the 1840s.

Historic England, 2018, Coryton East and West Tunnel Portals (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361227.

Confirmation that the tunnel portals have been issued with a Certificate of Immunity from listing for five years.

Historic England, 2018, Coryton Tunnel East and West Portals (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361196.

Notification that following a recommendation from Historic England, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has decided not to list the tunnel portals but is minded to issue a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI).
When first constructed in 1846, the engineering of the West Devon Line between Dawlish and Teignmouth necessitated the construction of many railway features, including the five tunnels between the two stations. As such, the Coryton tunnel portals were part of the early, pre-1850 development of railway engineering, and also contributed to the 1841-50 ‘heroic age of railway building’. The Coryton south portal retains the only fabric in the portals as designed in 1846 by Brunel on the Dawlish to Teignmouth stretch of the West Devon Line. However, this fabric, of sandstone construction with remains of the ‘bellmouth’ tunnel at the portal end, is only a fragment, and is not sufficient to compensate for the overall loss of early fabric through the widening and re-facing of the portal in engineering brick in the early C20. Additionally, the evidential and historic connection is less than that which survives on comparable listed tunnel portals on the GWR by Brunel; for example Saltford Tunnel West and East Portals near Keynsham (individually listed at Grade II).
The north portal was shown in an 1846 illustration by William Dawson, and is similar in design to the surviving fabric of the south portal, for example the sandstone keystone. It is also shown in a late C19 postcard with the same appearance. However, the north portal was completely replaced in engineering brick in around 1902 in an identical design to the east portal of Kennaway Tunnel, also of this date, and has little architectural or historic interest. Coupled with its later date in relation to the early development of this stretch of railway, it
is not of special interest.
As a linear entity, in 1846 the ten portals between Dawlish and Teignmouth would have had group value architecturally and functionally, as is evident in William Dawson’s 1846 illustrations of various tunnel portals. However, the successive changes and alterations to bring the line up to standard have eroded any cohesive interest.
After examining all the records and other relevant information and having carefully considered the architectural and historic interest of this case, the criteria for listing are not fulfilled. A COI should therefore be issued.
Coryton East and West Tunnel Portals are not recommended for listing for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: plain early C20 tunnel portal structures;
* Historic interest: the association with IK Brunel is limited due to the loss of 1846 fabric during the widening
of the railway in the early C20;
* Group value: cumulative changes to the railway in the C20, including to the tunnel portals, have eroded any evidential cohesion of the structures as a group constructed to facilitate the safety of the railway.
See report for full details.

Historic England, 2018, Coryton Tunnel East and West Portals, Dawlish, Devon (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV360678.

Notification that following an application for a Certificate of Immunity, Historic England have completed an assessment in order to consider if the portals have special architectural or historic interest.
The Plymouth, Devonport and Exeter Railway Company was formed in 1840 to establish a railway line between Exeter and Plymouth. In 1843 the name was changed to the South Devon Railway and Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed as engineer. In 1844 the South Devon Railway Act was passed, authorising the construction of a single-track, broad-gauge line.
The proposed route included a stretch along the coastline between Dawlish and Teignmouth, between the sea and sandstone cliffs, which required a series of tunnels to be cut through the protruding headland. The line had to negotiate several steep climbs and changes in gradient and Brunel’s plan to deal with this landscape was to adopt an experimental system of atmospheric propulsion. Known as the Atmospheric Railway, it was developed by Samuel Clegg and Jacob and Joseph Samuda on the Dalkey Railway in Ireland in 1844. It used a combination of partial vacuum and atmospheric pressure. Instead of a traditional locomotive engine, stationary engines were placed in pumping stations along the line, extracting air from vacuum pipes laid in the middle of the track. Brunel first used the system in 1844 on a five-mile stretch of the London to Croydon Railway. Despite criticism of the system from various contemporary engineers he also recommended it for the South Devon Railway. The first section of the line opened in May 1846; however, the atmospheric vacuum pipes had not been completed, and initially, a steam locomotive was used. The first atmospheric train ran in 1847, although only between Exeter and Teignmouth. Ultimately the railway suffered from defects, including the deterioration of the leather seals on the vacuum pipes. In 1848 the atmospheric system was abandoned and the line was converted to conventional steam locomotion.
In 1876 South Devon amalgamated with the Great Western Railway, and in 1884 the section of track between Teignmouth Old Quay and Smugglers Lane was doubled. In 1892 the line was converted from broad to standard gauge. Between 1902 and 1905 the section between Smugglers Lane and Dawlish Railway Station was also made into a double line. Coryton Tunnel is one of five tunnels on the line between Teignmouth and Dawlish. The tunnel’s (geographical) north portal begins at Coryton’s Cove and exits at the (geographical) south portal after 205m at Horse Rocks. The tunnel, portals and cove were named after Jane Coryton, the landowner of this stretch of the coast who lived at Cliff Cottage above Coryton’s Cove. The south portal has undergone widening and refacing, and the north portal (and others on the line) were replaced in the late C19 and early 1900s when the track was doubled.
Two railway tunnel portals associated with Coryton Tunnel, on the Dawlish to Teignmouth line
constructed 1846 for the South Devon Railway. North portal rebuilt early C20; south portal
altered early C20.
North portal: engineering brick
South portal: local sandstone and engineering brick
The north portal was rebuilt between 1902 and 1905, of engineering brick comprising a segmental arch with spandrels and headwall in English bond. On the cliff side and parallel to the tracks a false flying arch connects a wingwall to the portal face, also in English bond. The structure is surmounted by a brick cornice three courses deep. The portal is similar in design to the east portal of Kennaway Tunnel.
The south portal was constructed as part of the 1846 railway in red sandstone, extended in the early C20 with engineering bricks to meet flanking brick buttresses, again in English bond with a three-course cornice. The mouth of the tunnel forms a ‘bellmouth’ which reduces inside the tunnel to an asymmetric profile as seen on the early C20 tunnel portals.

Ordnance Survey, 2018, MasterMap 2018 (Cartographic). SDV360652.

Tunnel marked.

Historic England, 2018, Parsons Tunnel to Kennaway Tunnel (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV360677.

Notification of application for a Certificate of Immunity for structures and features on the railway line from Parsons Tunnel to Kennaway Tunnel, including sea walls, breakwaters and tunnel portals.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV360652Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap 2018. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #79911 ]
SDV360677List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Parsons Tunnel to Kennaway Tunnel. Notification of Application for a Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
SDV360678List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Coryton Tunnel East and West Portals, Dawlish, Devon. Notification of Completion of Assessment. Digital.
SDV360708Monograph: Garnsworthy, P.. 2013. Brunel's Atmostpheric Railway. Brunel's Atmostpheric Railway. Paperback Volume. 50-51.
SDV361196List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Coryton Tunnel East and West Portals. Notification of Intention to Grant a Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
SDV361227List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Coryton East and West Tunnel Portals. Notification of Certificate of Immunity. Digital.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:May 4 2018 10:19AM