CLICK TO VIEW LOCATION MAPTunnel Street To Plantation Place
OS Ref: NS 571 650
Created: June 2002


Glasgow Harbour Tunnel

Alternative Names: Tunnel Street; Plantation Place; Rotunda; Finnieston Tunnel.

Harbour Tunnel: Tunnel Street to Plantation Place, built 1890-6. Three parallel tunnels, two of which were used by vehicular traffic. At each end is a circular brick terminal, with a domed roof, which housed hydraulic lifts.

Sadly the pedestrian tunnel was closed on 4th April 1980. This tunnel is now only used for access to water mains. Both the vehicular tunnels were filled in in 1986. The North Rotunda is currently being used as a casino, while the South Rotunda is unused after having found brief uses as a "dome of discovery" and a Nardinis Ice Cream Parlour (replicating the original in Largs)during the Glasgow Garden Festival.

PHOTOGRAPHS: 1982, by Gus Tennent

The Virtual Mitchell library has some pictures of the tunnel between the Rotundas. Click on the Area link (on the left) and then look through the Finnieston photos.

There is a photo from 1896 of horses and carts entering and leaving a rotunda and one of the pedestrian tunnel. Enjoy! (thanks to Stef Robb for this one)

Or go directly to the photo here but i would recommend a look through the finnieston photos there also one of the pedestrian tunnel amongst them.


Extract from AA Touring Guide to Scotland, 1975

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.

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.

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.

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.


The South Rotunda

South Rotunda: 16.06.2002

South Rotunda: 16.06.2002

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 door of the passenger tunnel has long been disused, and foot-passengers now enter by one of 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, I soon found myself smoothly and quietly descending among a bewildering medley of wheels and cables, through which I could see the mouth of the old disused foot-passenger tunnel as we passed on the way down. At the bottom water oozed through the iron sides of the great tube, which has never been totally watertight. At one place a single stalactite a font long hung from the roof.'


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.

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.

North Rotunda: 16.06.2002

North Rotunda: 16.06.2002

Timeline: (partly borrowed from Frederic Delaitre's Lost Website)

1889 - Formation of the Glasgow Harbour Tunnel Company.

1889 (August 12th) - Bill received Royal assent.

1895 - Opening of the Clyde Tunnel.

1897 - (or 1906?) Closure due to the Glasgow Harbour Tunnel Company becoming bankrupt.

1913 - Reopening by the Glasgow Corporation.

1926 - The tunnel passed into the city's control for a payment of £100,000.

1943 - Closure of the two vehicle tunnels, lifts removed.

1970 - My visit to the place. The Northern entrance was quite impressive, but dark and gloomy.

1986 - Northern Rotunda is placed on preservation list.

1987 - Closure of the tunnel. A water main is installed in the pedestrian tunnel. The two vehicle tunnels are filled in.

1988 (?) - refurbishment of the Northern rotunda, converted into a restaurant.

Note: Promoters of the Glasgow Harbour Tunnel Company were the same involved in the Glasgow cable hauled Subway/Underground.

View of the North Rotunda from the South Rotunda: 16.06.2002

View of the South Rotunda from the North Rotunda: 16.06.2002


The pedestrian tunnel as photographed in 1979

Courtesy of: Michael Cullen


Your Memories

In 1960 I was employed as an apprentice electrician by E.M.MacKenzie & Co. of 1025 Argyle St. at the top of Finnieston St. To get there I used to come from Arklet Rd. in Govan, get off the bus and walk through the tunnel as it was cheaper and I used to be able to “skin” my fag money!!!. I did this on a regular basis,each way,depending where I was working, until 1963.What a dismal walk as the tunnel was lit only by incandescent light bulbs well spaced out with puddles of water along the route, the stairs were no problem as I was still fit from all the walking we did as kids. I believe I heard rats scurrying but it could have been my imagination as I never saw any,maybe at that point I was running too fast!!! I am amazed at the number of Southsiders who didn’t know the old tunnel existed. Anyway thanks for your pictures they brought back old memories,now I don’t have to describe it to sceptics .The tunnel must have been a tremendous boon to the people of the time.As they say,a picture is worth a thousand words.
I really enjoy your site, thanks Roy T.

Thanks for your article and photos of the old Glasgow harbour tunnel. At the weekend in the late 60s we used to use the tunnel to cross from Queens Dock to Princes Dock to see all the ships in the docks and at the quays. It was a great short cut across the Clyde for pedestrians. There were also a couple of small passenger ferries at Finnieston and Kelvinhaugh nearby. Sadly the ships are now gone, the docks are mostly filled in and the tunnel is now closed.

Arthur [12/05/2003]

I was born at 28 mclean st. In the plantation. An i alwis used the tunnel, ti' get o'er ti' anderson. I ran lik the clappers fur wance a wis walkin doon the sters. A herd sumbudy talkin behind the big pipe, so a wusny hingin aroon ther. A shot up em' sters at 100 mile an oor, an didny stoap, untul a gote hame. Boy wis a frightened oot ma wee heed,but that wis yesturday,i'm aff ti' the barra's. Wit a smashin day oot,luvly memorie's.

JIMMY.MCGEE [10/06/2003]

I seem to recall the southern rotunda being used as a science museum in the late 1980s/early 1990s for a couple of years. Would anyone be able to verify this.

Andy Hamilton [13/06/2003]

The southern Rotunda was used during the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival as the 'Dome of Discovery'. I think it may have outlived the actual garden festival for a few months before finally closing down. There was a Royal Naval frigate alongside the south bank near to here for a year or so in the early 1990's. It was open to the public for a small admission fee, cant remember what she was called HMS Coventry or something like that?. It saw action in the Falklands War and some battle damage was visble on its exterior.

PGCC [29/06/2003]

I did a cctv survey from the south rotunda which involves carrying a camera on a cable from one end to the other, this was 2001,the old wooden flooring has diminished quite a bit but is still walkable also a fair bit of the tiling on the walls are gone their is a tile though that has an inscription on it and this has been preserved if memory serves,it has changed a bit from the 70s photo but still fantastic, im not sure who the client was but i may be able to find out through my work as their is a video of the full length of tnnel from south to boarded up door at north rotunda.

Paul [12/08/2003]

I am surprised to learn that the vehicular traffic ceased in 1943, because I was born in 1942, and when I was a youngster in short trousers, my big brother James took me through the pedestrian tunnel. I calculate that I must have been about 7 or 8 - let's say 1950 maximum. I could swear that whilst I waited at the northern entrance, I saw horses and carts being lowered and raised in the vehicular shafts.

In the late 1980's I happened to be at the SECC, and shared a taxi-cab with 3 others, one of whom was an architect and another ran a nationally known engineering concern. When we passed the Northern Rotunda (by now a posh restaurant) I mentioned to the engineer that he'd have been interested in the fact the this tunnel was a fine example of Victorian hydraulics, and turned to the taxi-driver for confirmation. My credentials went out of the window when he replied that he never knew the Rotunda was an entrance to a tunnel in the first place, and what the hell did the word hydraulics mean? Sad. But true.

George Mair [08/09/2003]

I was born at 16 Plantation st and have fond memories of the old tunnels they were a magical place for weans to play as you went in one end and came out in a new world. Plantation st would be full of horses and carts parked,while the carters had lunch at the Stag resturant, or drinks at the Camden or Ferry bar each on the corner of Plantation St and Govan Rd as this was in the 50s the carts came via the vehicular ferry. My grannie spoke of some incident that happend regarding the lifts that involved lose of life,but the details of this I dont remember. I do remember that on each entrance to the pedestrain tunnels was a box or office for the janitors or watchmen their job seem to revolve around chasing us weans out of the tunnel and each sweeping exactly half way .great times .

Tom Calikes, Adelaide, South Australia[14/10/2003]

I returned to Glasgow in 1954 and walked through the tunnel and there was traffic at that time

J.E. Anderson [19/10/2003]

Further to George Mairs memories. I was born in 1943 and am sure I was through the tunnel with an uncle about 1948-49 and I seem to remember a horse and cart and a lift on that visit

Ronnie Taylor [12/10/2003]

Thank you Ronnie, I was beginning to think I was born 10 years before what the date was on my birth certificate!

George Mair [05/11/2003]

I visited the Dome Of Discovery in the summer of 1990, two years after the Garden Festival. At the time the HMS Glasgow, a Destroyer, was docked beside the south rotunda.

C Francis [23/11/2003]

My Grandfaither was a watchman at the Plantation docks in the 50's 60's and as a child I would go down to see him in the "Sheds" as they were called at the weekends after school.This was before shipping containers and I was always playing around the "Cranes"and "Doodlebugs"

(Electric carts and forklifts of the day)Anyway I would play down in the tunnels at Finnieston docks where ships flying the flags of dozens of countries would be berthed.After going into the entrance of the tunnel,there is a wooden wall going down the stairs on either side and I used to climb up on it and look down into the deep hole,my breath taken away at the depth on this water dripping cavern.I would take a wee piece of my "sanny wae me" and feed the big black rats that were scurrying along the huge metal pipe that ran the length of the dimmly lit tunnel.After seeing pictures of "My playground" it brought back great memories and I thought to share just one with all.

Awe ra best.

Andrew McCartney [17/12/2003]

I was in the tunnel about 1985-6 it was derelict then but me and a friend had heard about it from relatives and as 2 curious teenagers wee set off to explore after a hard climb on the north rotunda we made our descent down a ramshackle cast iron staircase to the lower level and indeed the tunnel was there alongwith plenty furry inhabitants.

We then wlked the tunnel in pitch blackness until my mate Brian found out the wooden beamed floor was incomplete i can still smell the mud he had up to his thighs to this day and had a chuckle when i found this page.

Goober [11/01/2004]

Just before the pedestrian tunnel closed to the public in the 70s, I persuaded a few pals to walk through the tunnel and come back by the Govan ferry (which was also closing). It was quite a walk for 9/10 year olds and I don't think we told our parents! The south rotunda was used as Nardini's restaurant during the Garden Festival and was then turned into the Dome of Discovery afterwards. Perhaps it would have been more popular if it had been cheaper...

Margaret [18/01/2004]

I was delighted today when I "came accross" your site about the Finnieston Tunnel. I worked for 35 years in Lancefield Street starting in 1966. At that time, the tunnel was open to pedestrians, the Finnieston ferry flied its way regularly accross the Clyde and it was sited about 200 yards to the east of the tunnel.

Harland and wolff's engine works were sited on the west side of Lancefield Street and the Finnieston Crane was still in regular use (it had a lifting capacity of 175 tons and, surprisingly, eas built as recently as 1938.

As young apprentices, we would regularly walk along to the tunnel and would go down the wide wooden stairs which zig zagged all the way down to the "tube" entrance. It was a dimly lit, dank and eerie place to be in and I never ventured through on my own. Once through, we would climb the stairs at the other end and then come back on the ferry (it was free) Sometimes, whilst walking through the tunnel, we would come accross a down and out lying against one on the concrete supports which carried the water pipe throughout the length of the tunnel.

I have always been fascinated by old tunnels in general. I recall very clearly the construction of the "tube" It was made up of many cast iron segments which were then bolted together with caulked joints. Water would constantly drip through the joints adding to the eerieness of the "journey". Would one of them fail? Would we be drowned or would we get out? i frequently looked over the high vertically planked balustrade that accompanied the stairs going down and the hugh cylindrical "hole", which is the same diameter as the Rotunda Building on top, extended considerably lower than the depth of the running tunnels themselves. I always thought that he reason for that was so that, in the event of a "tube" rupture causing immediate flooding of the "tube", the water would have to fill the lower sections of the Rotundas on either side of the river before starting to flood the stairs therby allowing persons on the stairs to escape.

Incidentally, I believe the elevators supplied by the Otis Elecator Company of America were the first that Company had supplied equipment to the UK. People will recognise them as almost a household name in lifts nowadays. Thankyou for providing a very interesting site and I hope to read much more about the Tunnel, Crane etc in the future.

Edward A Hunter [18/01/04]

Just read the stories relating to the tunnels incl jimmt mcgee`s, i lived in kinning park fron 1964 to 1978 and i often used the tunnel during my school day while doggin it (playing truant, skipping school)and i and a pal called jerry used to sit down there behind the big pipe for hours reading commics while the school was on, we sometimes surfaced at the anderson side to go to the bilsland/mothers pride bakeries to collect (gingies)empty ginger bottles to get money to buy sweets and commics to read while down there, i`d love to see down there again... i thought they filled it with concrete years ago ?

Ian Masson [26/01/2004]

I lived in Cessnock until 1959. My pals and me used to go down to the river side. One of our games was to start at the South Rotunda. One would run to catch the Finnieston passenger ferry. The other would run doon the stairs and through the tunnel. Then we met up at the North end. Then we would switch it around. I was born in '46 and can remember seeing vehicles going down into the tunnel.

Sandy Campbell [27/01/2004]

In the late 80's early 90's I began work as a yts in the fancy restaurant opened in the north rotunda. Infact it was two restaurants, a wine bar and a cocktail bar spread over 4 levels, the wine bar on the ground floor, italian restaurant on 1st, french on 2nd and the cocktail bar on the top floor. I remember when I was 16 and had just started my grandad gave me the story of what the rotundas were and so forth. Not until today have I finally found confirmation that all he said was 100% accurate. I guess I was a little ignorant and naive at 16 and didnt fully appreciate the history being shared with me. Had I known fully then what i've read today then it wuld have been a far more interesting place to work. I'd have goe looking for that bloody tunnel!!.

G Connolly [30/01/2004]

When I was about 10 in the late 1950's, my father took my brother and I through the pedestrian tunnel from south to north. I remember it was a bit wet underfoot but otherwise fine. Later, in the late 1970's, when I was a police sergeant in Cranstonhill Police Office, I sent two officers to intercept two men who had stolen tools in Govan and had been seen entering the pedestrian tunnel. The men were caught and brought to the office. I remember they were wet up to their knees....and not a little surprised at being caught!!

Alastair [09/02/2004]

I was brought up in Elliot Street, just round from the tunnel. I was a member of the 17th Boys Brigade Company, and we had a PT class every Monday night in Finnieston School. Occasionally the officer in charge of the class would take us for a run, down Elliot St, along Stobcross Street, down the stairs, along the tunnel, round the building, and back to the school the same way. As a fit teenager, I managed the circuit without any problem, but even thinking about it now makes me exhausted! This was in the mid 60's just before the Kingston Bridge was built and the character of Anderston was changed forever. I still visit the rotunda often....The Yen Japanese restaurant there is lovely and I would recommend it to anyone. Like most people, I'm surprised to hear that there is still a tunnel which hasn't been filled, but it was bad enough walking through it in the 60's, it must be a spooky place now!

Jim Cairns [13/02/2004]

I am an interior design student and my next project regards a revamp of the south rotunda. Website has great info for research. Thanks. I would appreciate if people could give me feedback on what they would like to see the south rotunda used for.

M Friel [14/02/2004]

Are our facts correct? Does anyone have any information, stories or photographs relating to The Harbour Tunnel? maybe you remember walking through them?





We would like to hear from you. Are our facts accurate, please let us know!

All images © 2002

updated: February 2004