The Tar Tunnel
Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
Shropshire TF8 7HZ
The Coalport Tar Tunnel is easily the smallest and most bizarre of the museums to be found at the Ironbridge Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site in Shropshire, England. Even in the 18th century the tunnel was a great curiosity.
The Tar Tunnel is located on the north bank of the River Severn in the tiny village of Coalport, at the foot of the Hay Incline Plane.
In 1787 work began on digging a canal tunnel to link the Coalport Canal running beside the River Severn, with the lower underground galleries of the coal mines beneath Blists Hill.
The idea was to load the newly mined coal directly from the seams into a canal boat which would be ‘legged’ out through the narrow canal tunnel.
During construction, the tunnel-ers struck a gushing spring of natural bitumen, a black treacle-like substance. Natural bitumen or tar had a commercial value and was used to treat and weatherproof ropes and caulk wooden ships, but small amounts were also processed and bottled as a remedy for rheumatism.
After digging some 3,000 feet (914 metres) into the hill the canal project was abandoned in favour of bitumen extraction.
After the canal project was abandoned a new method of transporting the mined coal had to be found. The Hay Inclined Plane was built instead, its base being alongside the canal basin.
The Tunnel Today
Today, more than 200 years later, bitumen is still oozing through the walls and welling up in puddles. Visitors are provided with hard hats and may enter the first 300 feet of the brick-lined tunnel as far as an iron gate. Electric lighting is provided.
7 days a week: 10:30 – 16:00 hours.
Closed during winter.
For details go to Web: Ironbridge/ Tar Tunnel
There are two options – tickets for a single visit to a museum or the fantastic value Annual Passport Ticket which allows unlimited visits to all the sites. For more information and current prices go to Web: Ironbridge/ Tar Tunnel
- Don a hard hat and enter the eerie, underground brick-lined tunnel;
- Crouch down to peer inside miniature caverns and see the thick tranquil pools of liquid tar;
- Smell the tar oozing out of the rocks;
- Return outside and take a look at the extraordinary Hay Inclined Plane, a nifty invention designed in the early 1790s to move tub boats between the Shropshire canal at the top of the hill and the Coalport canal at the bottom. Well worth a look.
For more detailed information go to .pdf document at Web: Ironbridge/ Access Guide/ Coalport China Museum & Tar Tunnel
You should allow about 20 minutes for a visit.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1952 433 424
The Ironbridge Gorge is in Shropshire, 5 miles (8km) south of Telford Town Centre and is well signposted from the M54 motorway, Junction 4. When you leave M54 follow the brown and white tourism signs for Ironbridge Gorge.
As you get closer to the Museums follow the specific signs: For Blists Hill Victorian Town, Coalport China Museum and Tar Tunnel follow ‘Blists Hill Museums’.
There is car parking at the Coalport China Museum near to the Tar Tunnel. Sat Nav for the car park is TF8 7HT. One ticket, costing around £2.00, is required to park at most of the Museum car parks.
Google Map - Ironbridge Tar Tunnel