100 Govan Road, Glasgow Harbour Tunnel, Otherwise Known As Finnieston Tunnel Shaft and Rotunda, Glasgow.


THE FORGOTTEN TUNNEL: In 1895 Glasgow was in the grip of a kind of tunneling mania. The Central Station low-level line was being dug, the underground railway circuit was nearing completion, and the Glasgow Harbour Tunnel Company's pride and joy was about to be opened after five years of excavating under the Clyde.

Parliamentary approval had been given in 1889 for a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel under the Clyde between Finnieston on the north bank and Mavisbank Quay on the south. Three l6ft diameter tunnels were dug, with shields and compressed air, the centre one being for pedestrians and the others for horse and cart traffic. The entrances on both sides were circular brick towers, which contained not only stairs for pedestrians but also hydraulic lifts for raising and lowering cart traffic to and from the main tunnel level under the river.
On the following Monday, however, when only half the hoists on each side were working, 218 vehicles used the tunnel during its opening period of 05.00 to 19:00 hrs.

The next day it was 272, and the secretary of the Otis Company's London subsidiary reported that 'the horses generally have taken most kindly to the lifts, and are carried up and down without trouble. Carters said that by avoiding the steep inclines at the nearby ferries they could take five extra bags of flour per journey.

In each tower there were six segments of hydraulic hoist, three for up traffic and three for down. The hoists were provided by the Otis Elevator Company of New York, and the chairman of the Harbour Tunnel Company replied to criticisms from the Glasgow engineering establishment about the use of foreign machinery by saying that they were the best available.


The Glasgow Harbour Tunnel Co built three parallel tunnels under the River Clyde in 1890-1896, connecting Tunnel Street in Finnieston to Mavisbank Quay on the south side of the river. One tunnel was for pedestrian use only, and the other two for vehicular traffic. Vehicles accessed the tunnels via entrances in the North and South Rotundas, where hydraulic lifts lowered them into the tunnel at one end, and out at the other.

The pedestrian tunnel was closed by the 1930s but pedestrians continued to use the vehicle tunnels. It is commonly stated that the vehicle tunnels were closed in 1943 and the hydraulic lifts removed, although several visitors to the HiddenGlasgow website disagree and recall seeing vehicles using the tunnels in the 1950s. It seems that the pedestrian tunnel was reopened in the 1940s and it continued in use until 1980. The vehicle tunnels were sealed in 1986.

In 1955 Partick Camera Club set out to create a photographic survey of Glasgow. As the project progressed, other camera clubs joined and each was allocated a district of the city to photograph. Glasgow Museums exhibited the photographs at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and at the People's Place, and in 1956 the exhibition was shown at the Palace of Art in Bellahouston Park. The photographs are now part of Glasgow Museums' collections.


Like many similar schemes, the Harbour Tunnel never produced the revenues its promoters expected, and from time to time they threatened closure. In 1915 an arrangement was reached with Glasgow Corporation by which the city authorities came to the financial rescue by making an annual grant, and being given in return an option to buy over the tunnel at a later date.

That later date came in 1926, by which time the corporation paid out almost 30,000 every year to keep the tunnel and the passenger and vehicle ferries near by running. The tunnel passed into the city's control for a payment of 100,000. At the same time the corporation released details of plans for a new cross-river bridge at Finnieston, and it was expected that the tunnel would soon be closed. The bridge was never built. In 1932 a columnist in the Evening Citizen could still write about a journey beneath the Clyde.


The four elevators for vehicles at the other side of the rotunda. Choosing the company of a horse and lorry as preferable to that of a motor-car. The tunnel was still of some use to the city, although the ferries were far more popular with those whose business did not take them close to the city-centre bridges. Traffic increased again during the second world war, when dockers and shipyard workers were among the most regular users. In April 1943 there was a request that the tunnel should be restricted to motor traffic, since horse-drawn vehicles were causing delays. Glasgow Corporation, however, had far different ideas, since their Master of Works had recently made a thorough examination of the old tunnel and reported that 'grave responsibilities would be incurred' if it were kept open at all.


In September 1943 it was decided to abandon the vehicle tunnels, and  all the hydraulic equipment was removed. The passenger tunnel was to be  retained, and 500 was earmarked for pumps to keep it dry.

In September 1943 it was decided to abandon the vehicle tunnels, and  all the hydraulic equipment was removed. The passenger tunnel was to be  retained, and 500 was earmarked for pumps to keep it dry.

Despite the derelict appearance of the towers, and the fact that they seem to  be no more than a roosting place for half the city's birds, the Harbour  Tunnel is still open. The remains of the machinery in the great circular shafts can be glimpsed, and dimly lit stairways plunge eerily down  alongside the hydraulic pipeline which took pressure from the south side to the north, to the main level below the Clyde. The Harbour  Tunnel remains one of Glasgow's best-kept secrets: most people in the  city, if they are even aware of its existence, thought it closed down  long ago.


It was on July 15, 1895 that the Harbour Tunnel opened for business.

This was during the Glasgow Fair holidays, and traffic was light for the first week.


The Clyde Tunnel Construction in 1958

The FinniestonTunnel Rotunda
1st ClydeTunnel Rotunda Govan Road

1st Clyde Tunnel Govan Road Rotunda

1st Clyde Tunnel Finniston Rotunda

The Glasgow Harbour Tunnel Rotundas are two iconic red brick stone buildings which flank the River Clyde in the Finnieston and Govan area of Glasgow. The North Rotunda is located on Tunnel Street in Finnieston and the South Rotunda on Govan Road near the Finniston Bridge.

The Routundas wer designed by Simpson and Wilson and built between 1890 and 1896 by the Glasgow Tunnel Company. The two Rotunda's each covered a 24 metre (79 ft) deep shafts to tunnels which enabled vehicular and pedestrian access to the other side of the river Clyde.

Pedestrians, horses and carts and later motor vehicles, would be hauled up by hydraulic lifts provided by Otis Elevator Company of New York. During the Second World War, the tunnels were temporarily closed because all the metal from the lifts was removed to contribute to the war effort. The tunnels were an expensive venture to run and were passed to the council to run as a service in 1926.

Because of the increased costs of running the two tunnels which were also prone to damp with the increase of motor cars on the roads, lead to the closure of the pedestrian tunnel in 1980 and the vehicular tunnels was filled in 1986. Even though the pedestrian tunnel still has exists, it is closed to the general public.

Originally, three-storey red and white brick towers stood alongside the Rotundas, containing the hydraulic accumulators that powered the lifts, but these have been demolished a long time ago.

1st ClydeTunnel Rotunda Govan Road
FinniestonTunnel Rotunda

This is the South Rotunda on Govan Road under repair you can just see the Finniston Bridge to the right of picture.

This is the North Rotunda at Finniston the La Rotunda Restaurant Click picture to see Restaurant’s Web Site

The top view is of the North Rotunda at Finniston

The view below is the South Rotunda on Govan Road.

This is now the South Govan Road Rotunda under repair
MyGOVAN 2016