A NEW book and film have been produced to mark the 170th anniversary of Bramhope Railway Tunnel.

The tunnel, which links North Leeds to North Yorkshire, was opened in July 9, 1849 following a period of construction - begun in 1845 - that came with a terrible cost. Engineered by Thomas Grainger and built under contract by James Bray the tunnel required the manpower of thousands of navvies, 24 of whom were killed.

The Navvies Memorial which stands in the grounds of Otley All Saints Parish Church was created in their memory, and to honour all of the country’s navvies. A replica of the tunnel’s north entrance, the Grade II Listed monument was recently restored.

To celebrate the 170th anniversary of the tunnel’s opening, Otley Town Council has commissioned two history projects to tell the stories of the workers involved.

A soon-to-be-published 60-page book, What Lies Beneath, has been written as part of research by Angela Leathley of Otley Conservation Taskforce and covers the life of navvies during the expansion of the railways in the 19th Century. The book, priced £5, will be available from Otley Core, on Orchard Gate, with all proceeds going towards maintenance of the memorial. An exhibition of research materials will also be available to view in various locations throughout July.

Otley-based Catapult Films, meanwhile, has produced a 30-minute documentary, The Navvies Who Built The Bramhope Tunnel, featuring footage from inside the tunnel alongside interviews with local historians and contributions from Otley musicians. As well as shedding light on what the life of a typical navvy was like in the 1840s, the film tells the tragic tales of how some of the men died.

Otley Town Council Chair, Councillor Ray Georgeson, said: “We are extremely proud to have the country’s only memorial to the brave navvies without whom our network of rail lines would not have been built. To be able to tell their story in the book and film will allow an important part of Britain’s history to live on.”

The film will be shown at two events - at Otley Parish Church at 6.45pm on Saturday, July 13 (following a rededication of the memorial) and then at Otley Courthouse from 7.30pm on Friday, July 26.

Tickets for both are available from Otley Core and cost £4 for adults and £3 for concessions. All proceeds will be used for ongoing maintenance of the memorial.

The restoration of the memorial and the associated commemorative projects have been supported by contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Railway Heritage Trust, Otley Town Council, Otley Conservation Taskforce, former Otley Town Mayor Councillor Nigel Francis’ 14+1 Appeal, and a private donation.