A walk through Brunel's Thames tunnel
A rare subterranean walk betwixt Rotherhithe and Wapping
(Photos © urban75, 12th March 2010)
Connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping, the Thames Tunnel was built between 1825 and 1843 by Marc Brunel and his son, the legendary Great Western railway engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Hailed in its day as the eighth wonder of the world, it was the first tunnel in the world to be constructed under a navigable river and is now regarded as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century.
To help convince people that it was safe, Isambard Kingdom Brunel famously organised a lavish underwater banquet in the tunnel in November 1827.
The Tunnel was a financial failure, costing over £630,000 and attempts to raise revenue by extending the entrance to accommodate wheeled vehicles failed due to cost.
Used only by pedestrians, it became a major tourist attraction, attracting about two million people a year, each paying a penny to pass through.
Fancy Fairs were held in the Tunnel every year and included panoramas, side shows and scientific demonstrations.
Finally, it was purchased in September 1865 by the East London Railway Company, with the first train running through the tunnel on 7 December 1869.
Later absorbed into the London Underground - where it became known as the East London Line - the tunnel saw goods services until as late as 1962.
Closed in December 2007 for redevelopment, the public were invited to walk through the tunnel ahead of the reopening on March 12 and 13, so naturally we were there to grab a few photos!
Arriving at Rotherhithe station. Although the event was totally sold out over the two days, several hopeful folks were hovering around the entrance trying to wrangle themselves in.
Rotherhithe station platforms.
On to the track.
Into the tunnel.
Our guide was friendly and very enthusiastic!
With the condition of the tunnel deteriorating badly, the original brickwork was concreted over in 1995, although you can still see the familiar shape of the arches.
The arches were originally used as small shops, with the tunnel becoming the world's first underwater shopping arcade.
Looking across to the the other track,
Walking up to Wapping station.
Looking back down the tunnels.
The old brickwork at Wapping.
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Walk through the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe
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