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Friday, March 12, 2010

Brunel Thames Tunnel Tour in Words & Pictures

A number of people were lucky enough to bag tickets to a walking tour of the world's first tunnel under a navigable river. Victorians last walked through the tunnel in 1865 & now, 145 years later it was opened to the public for two days. The tickets sold out incredibly quickly, but luckily for us a number of people have blogged & very kindly shared photography.

Rotherhithe Thames Tunnel - Walking back towards Rotherhithe by webponce

Matthew Knight aka webponce has an amazing set of pictures from the Thames Tunnel Tour. I love the detail of the original brickwork on the archways below.

Rotherhithe Thames Tunnel - Original Tunnel Section by webponce

He said "I've always wanted to walk down a Tube line, and to be able to walk along the Marc Brunel Thames Tunnel was even more special - as the world's first underwater tunnel. Much of the original tunnel is still visible at the Rotherhithe end. It is amazing to think there were stalls and shops down here. Thanks to the guides who showed us around.

The Thames Tunnel is an underwater tunnel, built beneath the River Thames in London, United Kingdom connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping. It measures 35 feet (11 m) wide by 20 feet (6 m) high and is 1,300 feet (396 m) long, running at a depth of 75 feet (23 m) below the river's surface (measured at high tide)
."

Peter Watts was also on the tour this morning "along with every other transport nerd". He said: "the tunnel reopened as a foot tunnel for what we were assured will be the very last time in its history, which is just the sort of hyperbole I like to hear on a Friday morning....

The tunnel is now pretty much indistinguishable from any other underground line. The only sense you get that you are heading under the river is that it is rather damp and chilly. Although most of the tunnel’s original brickwork has been concreted over, there are some areas where you can still the original bricks, beautiful but damaged.
"

Darryl Chamberlain from 853 blog also went along and said "The brickwork had concrete applied to it in the 1990s to protect the tunnel – said to be the leakiest on the Underground network – but after a row broke out between London Transport and preservation agencies, a small part close to Rotherhithe station was left alone. Rather than a reminder of how the tunnel was, the existence of the exposed bri just seems to justify the decision to cover it in concrete in the first place."

Rotherhithe Thames Tunnel - original tunnel section by webponce

Peter continued: "Arches bisect the tunnel throughout its length. These were originally used as small shops, as the tunnel became the world’s first underwater shopping arcade. These spaces are tiny, and would have been cramped, dark, cold and damps places to work from. I imagine they are rather like those booth-cum-shops you get along Brixton’s Atlantic Road, where people flog phonecards and reggae from the stairwells of blocks of flats.

Here, though, you can get a sense of the detailing that distinguishes so much Victorian architecture
.

Peter's visited a number of other subterranean parts of London (deep-level Tube shelter at Chancery Lane) & you can learn about what got him initially hooked at the rest of his great blog post.

Thanks to both him, Darryl Chamberlain & Matthew for sharing the experience & photos. If you managed to bag a ticket, it would be great to hear what you thought too.


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