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HER Number:MDV120672
Name:Parson Tunnel, Dawlish

Summary

Parson Tunnel was originally constructed in the 1840s for the South Devon Railway. It was extended to the east in 1920-1 and a new portal built. The tunnel takes its name from the neaby natural rock stack, called 'The Parson and Clerk'.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 959 748
Map Sheet:SX97SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDawlish
DistrictTeignbridge
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.

Parson Tunnel marked, on the Great Western Railway.


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

Parson 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.


Historic England, 2018, Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Adjacent Second World War Pillbox (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361212.

Notification that following a recommendation from Historic England, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has decided not to list the west portal but is minded to issue a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI).
The South Devon Railway was first laid out in 1846, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel during the pioneering phase of railway development in Britain. Parsons Tunnel is one of a series of tunnels established along this line. Some of the tunnel portals are shown in William Dawson’s 1840s illustrations of Brunel's Atmospheric Railway. In the late C19 a first phase of widening on this section of line occurred when a second track was added between the East Cliff and Parsons Tunnel, though not within the tunnels themselves. These were widened slightly later, in the early C20; and included the complete refacing of the portals at either end.
PARSONS TUNNEL WEST PORTAL was rebuilt in the early C20. In comparison to the other tunnel portals rebuilt on this section of line, it has been given more architectural detailing with the addition of a crenelated parapet. However, like the other tunnel portals along this section of track, it is constructed of standard engineering brick. The east portal at the opposite end of the tunnel (part of a separate assessment and not recommended for listing) was also rebuilt at the same time in a slightly different style. In the 1920s the east end of the tunnel was lengthened and a new portal was added. Although the west portal has a more considered architectural design, overall it is to a plainer design than contemporary examples, such as the
classically-styled, late-C19/early-C20 Chipping Sudbury West and East Portals in South Gloucestershire (both Grade II). These have been built using an interesting combination of engineering brick and sandstone, and group well with a series of decorative ventilation shafts (Grade II) that run along the 2.5 mile tunnel. In comparison the west portal of Parsons Tunnel is a more architecturally modest, early-C20 structure which is not considered to merit listing.
Parsons Tunnel West Portal and the adjacent pillbox have strong local historic interest as features associated with this early railway line which was established by Brunel, and in reflecting the continuing improvements to this prominent coastal railway route, as well as the defence of this area of coast. However, in light of their modest design and lack of group value they do not demonstrate sufficient special architectural or historic interest to merit listing.
CONCLUSION
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. Certificates of Immunity from Listing are recommended for Parsons Tunnel West Portal and the adjacent pillbox.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
It is recommended that Certificates of Immunity from Listing should be issued for both Parsons Tunnel West Portal and the adjacent pillbox for the following principal reasons:
Architectural interest:
* the early-C20 tunnel portal is architecturally modest in the context of* the early-C20 tunnel portal is architecturally modest in the context of the national rail network and lacks technological interest or innovation in terms of its engineering;
* although the pillbox has a non-standard design this is largely due to its location on the side of the steep sandstone cliff, and it is not a significant or rare type.
Historic interest:
* the tunnel portal is situated on the former South Devon Railway which was first established in 1846 and designed by Brunel. However, this association is not sufficiently strong to outweigh its late date and modest architectural and technological interest;
* although the pillbox forms part of the World War Two defences along the South Devon coast, this association does not compensate for its modest design.
Group value:
* neither has strong group value with any listed railway or defensive structures nearby.
See report for full details.


Historic England, 2018, Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Adjacent Second World War Pillbox (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361214.

Confirmation that the west portal of the tunnel has been issued with a Certificate of Immunity from listing for five years.


Historic England, 2018, Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Second World War Pillbox, Dawlish (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV360795.

Historic England has been asked to assess a number of structures on the railway line between Dawlish and Teignmouth, Devon for listing through a request for a Certificate of Immunity (COI) from Listing. These structures include Parsons Tunnel West Portal.
Parsons Tunnel is one of a series of tunnels created between Dawlish and Teignmouth when the South Devon Railway was opened in 1846. Parsons and Clerk Tunnels nearby are named after nearby natural features, rock stacks on the coastal edge and in the sea known as The Parson and Clerk, which are marked on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1889. The west portal of Parsons Tunnel was originally faced in stone, but was refaced in engineering brick when the tunnel was widened between 1902 and 1905 when this part of the line was made into a double track. It did not undergo further alteration when the east end of the tunnel was extended in 1921.
DESCRIPTION: a tunnel portal facing south-west. The portal comprises a large brick arch flanked by square piers. Above, the arch a cast-iron girder supports a rounded string course and a castellated parapet with a tiered cornice. To the south is a brick-retaining wall.


Historic England, 2018, Seawall between Clerk and Parsons Tunnel and Parsons East Tunnel Portal, Dawlish, Devon (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361093.

Notification that following a recommendation from Historic England, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has decided not to list the east portal but is minded to issue a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI).
Parsons and Clerk Tunnel are among five tunnels on the line between Teignmouth and Dawlish, part of the West Devon Railway, designed by IK Brunel and opened in 1846, but altered between 1884 and 1905 due to the failure of his Atmospheric Railway. The Sea Wall was constructed towards the end of the later works. Parsons Tunnel East Portal is part of a tunnel extension of 1920s date and the criteria are stricter for this structure due to its later date.
The original Parsons Tunnel East Portal and an attached sea wall are shown on a watercolour of 1846 by William Dawson. The illustration clearly demonstrates that the current structures are of later date. The Parsons Tunnel East Portal is a much later structure (1921) and built of standard materials and of a very plain design. Both of the structures under this assessment have no strong claims to architectural special interest.
The Sea Wall between Clerk and Parsons Tunnel and Parsons Tunnel East Portal are much later additions to Brunel’s 1846 Atmospheric Railway and have only tangential claims to its historic interest. Therefore, with little architectural or historic interest and no group value with other listed buildings, the structures fall short of the criteria and cannot be recommended for listing.
CONCLUSION
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.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
Both the Sea Wall between Clerk and Parsons Tunnel and Parsons Tunnel East Portal are not
recommended for listing for the following principal reasons:
Architectural interest
* the structures are of little design interest;
* the sea wall has had unsympathetic rebuilding work using a variety of materials.
Historic interest
* as C20 railway/sea defence structures dating to C20 phases of the railway they do not have strong claims to
historic interest.
Group value
* they do not form a group with any listed structures.
See report for full details.


Historic England, 2018, Seawall between Clerk and Parsons Tunnel and Parsons East Tunnel Portal, Dawlish, Devon (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361219.

Confirmation that the east portal of the tunnel has been issued with a Certificate of Immunity from listing for five years.


Historic England, 2018, Seawall between Parsons and Clerk Tunnel, Dawlish, Devon (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV360673.

Historic England has been asked to assess a number of structures on the railway line between Dawlish and Teignmouth, Devon for listing through a request for a Certificate of Immunity (COI) from Listing. These structures include the Sea Wall between Clerk and Parsons Tunnel and the East Portal to Parsons Tunnel.
History
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.
Parsons and Clerk Tunnels are named after nearby natural features, rock stacks on the coastal edge and in the sea known as The Parson and Clerk, which are marked on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1889. However, historically Clerk Tunnel was known as Sheepshead Tunnel, as marked on mapping up to 1933. The section of track between Clerk and Parsons Tunnels has a sea wall that was constructed in 1902-05. In 1920-21 Parsons Tunnel was extended by 134m to the east, incorporating a strengthened part of the sea wall, and a new portal was built. The extended section of tunnel forms a rockfall shelter, and safety fencing was added along the embankment towards Clerk Tunnel in the later C20. An access ladder was built into the sea wall in 1985.
Details
A railway tunnel portal of 1921, constructed by the Great Western Railway.
MATERIAL: constructed of engineering brick.
DESCRIPTION: a tunnel portal facing north-east with a round brick arch. There is a simple raised moulding to the arch and above it is a brick band and parapet. There is a brick return wall to the north-west. Attached to the portal is the south-east return wall of the tunnel, which is built above and into an early-C20 sea wall.

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: #79914 ]
SDV360673List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Seawall between Parsons and Clerk Tunnel, Dawlish, Devon. Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
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.
SDV360795List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Second World War Pillbox, Dawlish. Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
SDV361093List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Seawall between Clerk and Parsons Tunnel and Parsons East Tunnel Portal, Dawlish, Devon. Notification of Intention to Grant a Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
SDV361212List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Adjacent Second World War Pillbox. Notification of Intention to Grant a Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
SDV361214List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Parsons Tunnel West Portal and Adjacent Second World War Pillbox. Notification of Certificate of Immunity. Digital.
SDV361219List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Seawall between Clerk and Parsons Tunnel and Parsons East Tunnel Portal, Dawlish, Devon. Notification of Certificate of Immunity. Digital.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded


Date Last Edited:Aug 5 2019 4:31PM