Channel Tunnel Association archive

Scope and Content

The Company papers contain correspondence, press cuttings, articles, statistics and plans mainly concerning the 1930 scheme which was defeated in the House of Commons by seven votes. Unfortunately most of the company's early papers were destroyed in a fire in their office at London Bridge station in 1941.

Administrative / Biographical History

The CTA Archive is the work of the Association's Hon Librarian, Mr A G Brown. Mr Brown's order and classification system have been retained throughout. Each accession is divided into three sections:

Section A Books and Published reports, arranged alphabetically by author

Section B Pamphlets, Government Publications, and lectures (arranged alphabetically by author) including letters to the press arranged chronologically.

Section C Articles in press and magazines arranged chronologically

127 boxes arrived from Churchill Archives Centre; there are now 172 boxes.

An additional section of the collection is the CTUN Archive which consists of eighty two boxes.

The collection covers the history of tunnels under the Channel: Brief chronology of the history of the Channel Tunnel:

1802: Albert Mathieu, a French engineer, proposed a tunnel to link France with England, through the chalk under the Channel and using an artificial island on the Varne Bank. The scheme was impractical for Mathieu had little knowledge of the geology of the sea bed nor did he suggest any method of construction. Napoleon Bonaparte expressed some interest and during the fragile Peace of Amiens the plan was a symbol of friendship between the two countries.

1803: An Englishman called Mottray suggested that a submerged steel tube could be built across the sea bed, as opposed to a tunnel through the chalk. Both plans were short lived because hostilities were resumed later in the year.

1830: interest in a fixed link across the Channel was revived by Thome de Gamond, a French civil engineer, who during the following 25 years came up with several plans for tunnel and bridge schemes.

1868: Anglo-French Channel Tunnel Committee founded.

1872: Channel Tunnel Company incorporated and registered in London. The Company remained dormant for several years due to lack of funds.

1878-9: Tunnelling commenced on both sides of the Channel, at Sangatte on the French side, and at Shakespeare Cliff near Dover, where two shafts were sunk and a 2,000 yard tunnel bored out under the sea. Work was halted in 1882 mainly for reasons of defence. Leading military strategists of the day imagined a French army marching unimpeded through the tunnel.

1883: A scheme was finally killed off by the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee chaired by Lord Lansdowne.

1900-1914: A number of plans in the early years of the century had to be shelved due to the outbreak of the First World War.

1918-1930: Interest in the project was revived after the war. Most military experts were agreed that a tunnel would have been disastrous to Germany and a boon to the Allies. Marshal Foch considered that a Channel Tunnel would have shortened the war by two years. The Parliamentary Channel Tunnel Committee was revived under the Chairmanship of Sir William Bull. In 1930 a Royal Commission came out in favour of the tunnel by a majority vote, but the House of Commons turned down the project by seven votes. However, even if the Commons had been in favour, the committee of Imperial Defence would have prevented the tunnel being built on the grounds that it would have caused some South Coast ports to become redundant.

1947: Formation of the Parliamentary Channel Tunnel Study Group.

1953: Harold Macmillan as Minister of Defence said that there were no longer any strategic objections to the tunnel, thus ending the military veto that had loomed over the tunnel since the 1880's.

1964: Ernest Marples, Minister of Transport, announced that the British and French Governments had agreed that the construction of a rail Channel Tunnel was technically possible and would represent a sound investment. The two Governments decided to proceed with the project subject to further legal and financial discussions.

1970s: Work started again at Sangatte and at Shakespeare Cliff, but was abandoned in 1975 due to unacceptably high costs.

1984: The British and French Government announced their intention to seek private promoters for the construction and operation of a fixed link without public funding. The Eurotunnel bid was selected.

July 1987: Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand ratified the Fixed Link Treaty.

1994: The Channel Tunnel was opened.


Numbered boxes and folders.

Access Information

Available to researchers, by appointment. Please email: , giving at least two working days notice.

Further details about access to our collections are available on our website.

Access to archive material is subject to preservation requirements and must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

The collection was held at the Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, until 2003 when it moved to Brunel University.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available for manuscript material on our website . Printed material is catalogued on the Brunel University library catalogue . There is still much cataloguing work to be done - please contact Special Collections in case of any queries.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Letters, photographs, objects, books, reports, advertisements, maps, conference proceedings, and tunnel and bridge proposals.

Archivist's Note

The collection was originally catalogued in 1982 by Alan Kucia. The catalogue was revised and updated in 2000 by Natalie Adams and Averell Condren when additions to the collection were incorporated. Described in 2013 by Nigel Buckley.

Conditions Governing Use

The material, unless otherwise indicated, is protected by copyright. You are unable to publish, in full or in part, without the permission of the copyright holder. However you may use the material as permitted under statutory exceptions in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, e.g. quote for purposes of scholarship within the limits of fair dealing.

Custodial History

The papers of the Channel Tunnel Company and the Channel Tunnel Association (CTA) were deposited at Churchill College by officers of the Association at various stages between 1980 and 2003. The Channel Tunnel Association received regular additions until the Association was wound up in 1996. Churchill Archives Centre does not normally collect printed material so the collection was always based there short-term.