The Conwy Tunnel Project
The Conwy Marina Village story began 40 years ago with the Conwy Tunnel project. The Conwy Tunnel is an immersed tube tunnel across the Conwy Estuary. It carries the A55 expressway and was the first immersed tube road tunnel in Britain.
The tunnel is of twin box cross-section to accommodate dual two-lane carriageways. It is 1090m long, comprising an eastern cut-and-cover section of some 250m, a western cut-and-cover section of 120m, and six immersed tube sections each of 118m. The six sections were cast in a basin on the western bank of the Conwy estuary. Each section, once complete, was closed off at each end by temporary bulkheads. When all were complete, the basin was flooded and the sections were floated out and lowered into place.
The tunnel was designed by R Travers Morgan & Partners, with the assistance of specialist consultants.It was built by a joint venture of Costain and Tarmac for the Welsh Office between September 1986 and October 1991. It was opened by H.R.H. The Queen in October 1991.
The Conwy Tunnel YouTube Video
The Video is a Commemorative Film from start to finish of the construction of the Conwy Tunnel.
It runs for 39 minutes and tells the story from the early days until the tunnel was opened by H.R.H The Queen.
Thanks to John Jacob for kindly permitting the use of the photographs below which show the immersed tube sections under construction.
Building the Marina Village
Once the tunnel had been built the casting basin was no longer required. After a lengthy period of public consultation Aberconwy Borough Council gave approval in 1989 for Pearce Developments Ltd. to build a Marina and Marina Village on the site under Application 4/14/1150 B.
To ensure the development was built to an attractive design and would remain attractive in the future, the Council imposed a wide range of planning conditions. Permitted Development Rights were removed and are still removed today. A comprehensive "Section 106" document was produced on 25 April 1991 which also imposed restrictions on future changes to the whole site. The benefits of these measures are still seen today with the Village retaining its original attractive appearance.
Building work on the Marina began in the early 1990s with the development of the Village and other buildings continuing until the early 2000s.
Conwy Marina site in WW II
Looking further back in the 20th Century we find another fascinating story. When construction started on a series of floating structures at Conwy Morfa, the site of the Village and Marina, in 1942, the operation was so secret workers had no idea what they were creating.
It was only in June 1944, when the Allied forces launched the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, the purpose of the creations became clear.
They were a massive floating supply base to start the liberation of Europe from the Nazi regime.
The so-called Mulberry Harbour was a work of a genius, designed by Bangor-born Welsh engineer, Hugh Iorys Hughes.
After Prime Minister Winston Churchill endorsed the plan, the Conwy Estuary was chosen to build the floating harbour.
About 1,000 workers were drafted in to work on the clandestine project and when enough sections were prepared at Conwy Morfa, they were floated up the coast to Garlieston in Wigtown Bay, near Dumfries in Scotland, for testing.
When completed the Mulberry Harbour was actually two artificial harbours - each as big as Gibraltar - which were towed across the English Channel and assembled off the coast of Normandy in sectors codenamed Omaha Beach and Gold Beach.
The harbour was capable of moving 7,000 tons of vehicles and goods each day, with roadways codenamed “Whales” and the pontoons “Beetles”.
Whales ended at giant pier heads that had ‘legs’ which rested on the seabed.
The enormous floating structures meant the Allied forces did not need to capture a port first and provided a platform large enough to land vehicles, equipment, supplies and troops.
The story is reflected in the name of "The Mulberry" pub restaurant now in the Village; memorabilia still decorates its walls.