Underground history of ‘The Tunnel’

The Tunnel.
The Tunnel.

THE term ‘The Tunnel’ in Portadown is nowadays regarded as the area of road underneath the Northway and railway bridges near the junction of Park Road, Woodhouse Street and Obins Street - or even the length of Obins Street itself.

But, according to local historian Alex James (who last week told the story of the 1948 golf match between Tandragee’s Billy Hamilton and Open winner Fred Daly) both theories are totally wrong. It’s an oft-told story that has come down the generations, and Alex claims to have been the last man to walk the original ‘Tunnel’ before it was finally closed off.

Alex (pictured inset) claims that there is an actual tunnel deep underground that once ran from the old Obins Castle at Parkmount adjacent to the park to the old Parkview Bar area and that it was part of the historic castle, owned by Lord Obins -it was an Elizabethan mansion occupying a site close to the present Woodside estate.

Alex recalled it was a large well-made tunnel, six feet wide and almost eight feet high, with a rounded brick roof, supported by stanchions at 12 feet intervals and is still down there.

The entrance and exit, he added, were of the same stone of the castle, there was a stairway of about 14 steps down into it and the walk up to the castle took about five minutes. “At the Obins Street end, in the park the exit was surrounded by eight-feet high railings with a steel-padlocked gate,” he added.

He claimed that Lord Obins’ estate workers lived in what was Obins Road, and he posted a guard there which allowed his workers and cook to go to the castle in the mornings. “Some of his personal soldiers and guards lived in it, and as well as being an escape route from the castle in the event of attacks, they could launch surprise counter attacks from the tunnel,” Alex related.

The castle area was the oldest part of Portadown, with Castle Avenue - off the Garvaghy Road - and Castle Street getting their names from the old Obins Castle. And the expression ‘The Walk’ - aka Garvaghy Road (or Parkmount) - is still used by the older people of Portadown. The castle was destroyed in the 1641 rebellion although Hamlet Obins later returned to reclaim his inheritance.

Alex underlined that he was the last person to walk the tunnel, and thus he can verify that ‘The Tunnel’ isn’t a bridge, or a street, but an actual tunnel which - although underground - still has an effect on the life of Portadown.

Anyone else who can verify the history of ‘The Tunnel’ should e.mail - victor.gordon@portadowntimes.co.uk.