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80th anniversary of Queensway Mersey Tunnel

18 July 2014 by Anne

archive photo of crowds at the opening of the Queensway Mersey tunnel

Queensway Mersey Tunnel entrance hung with ceremonial curtains prior to the official opening, with the royal stand in the foreground. Archive reference number 11256-8

The Queensway Mersey Tunnel, connecting Liverpool with Birkenhead beneath the River Mersey, was officially opened 80 years ago, on 18 July 1934 by King George V, accompanied by Queen Mary. The distinguished company of Stewart Bale Ltd, a Liverpool based firm of commercial and industrial photographers, was selected as the photographers to officially capture this prestigious event.

The Stewart Bale collection is now part of the Maritime Archives and Library, including some 195,445 negatives and a souvenir photograph album recording the opening ceremony of the Queensway Mersey Tunnel. You can see every page of the album in a special online feature.

The tunnel was an outstanding and unprecedented engineering achievement of its time and was then the longest sub-aqueous tunnel in the world. Stewart Bale had also been awarded the significant contract to cover the progress of the Queensway’s construction, resulting in the taking of almost 1,000 glass negatives.

The album was made as a souvenir of the tunnel opening. The ceremony began at the Liverpool Old Haymarket entrance, adjacent to St John’s gardens, where enormous crowds gathered to witness the opening, with approximately 175,000 people just around that area. The album photographs capture the determined nature of some individuals to secure a viewing point, with people on roof tops, window-ledges and even wedged into the right-angles of what is now World Museum.

The album contains 23 images; the first 17 (pages 2 to 18) feature the ceremony at the Liverpool Old Haymarket tunnel entrance, with the remaining 6 views (pages 19 to 24) covering the ceremony at King’s Square, Birkenhead, following the tunnel drive-through by the royal party. There is also a title page listing the members of the Mersey Tunnel Joint Committee; the statutory authority for the management of the tunnel construction.

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of this major engineering feat along with the superlative Stewart Bale images that document it, we are highlighting both the souvenir album plus other Stewart Bale Queensway Mersey Tunnel images which can also be found on our website, along with a brief outline of the tunnel’s history.

For further information about Stewart Bale Ltd see the online information sheet and selected images on the website.

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