The SVVS again
displayed our vintage and classic vehicles in the old Reigate Tunnel,
generally supporting the National Heritage Open Day Scheme. The event is
no longer under the auspices of the Reigate Business Guild and it seems
Reigate is no longer putting any great deal of effort into the event. In the
good old days it was an event with various local stands selling things,
loads of bunting, and and music from local bands playing in the street.
Normally we would also have to share the Tunnel with the Wealden Cave
Society, but they seem to have chosen a different date.
Directly below the Tunnel are the famous Reigate Caves whose entrance is
in the tunnel. Although some of the caves are natural, most of them are
are man made. The man-made ones are actually an extensive network of Sand
Mines which produced large quantities of Folkstone Sand, White Sand and
Silver sand. Although most of the sand was mined 'officially' many of the
tunnels were made by private individuals excavating tunnels from within
the cellars of their homes. As the tunnelers were amateurs, some of the
tunnels frequently collapsed including a section in 1869 which took out
all the front walls of a row of cottages. Equally dramatic was earlier
collapse of the cricket pitch in the Castle Court in 1858. A shower of
rain removed the players from the field a few moments before the pitch
disappeared into the gaping cavern below !
Today the caves were not being open, which meant we had the whole of the
Tunnel to ourselves, but had a turnout of in total of 16 cars. The normal
core Members were there as usual but this turnout was down from the 22
cars we had the previous time the event it was held, pre-Covid. Tunnel
Road is now closed to traffic as is the famous Reigate Tunnel. The 'toll'
Tunnel was opened in 1824 by Lord Somers beneath whose private land the
tunnel was on. It was the main road through the town to London and was
eventually controlled single way in either direction by traffic lights. I
well remember as teenager driving through the tunnel accelerating rapidly
on my 500cc BSA enjoying the reverberating echoes of my Burgess straight-throughs
against the tunnel walls. Those were the days. Today you sit in the middle
of the road drinking a Caffe Macchiato, or alternatively opposite, a pint
of Fullers Bitter. The day was lovely and suitable for either, warm and
blue sky, shirtsleeves. It was adequately hot to be noticeable that on the
way back home the air conditioning in the Jaguar was not working. Also
seems a number of our cars had hiccups, perhaps the beetroot petrol?