A tunnel designed to allow horse-drawn carriages to cross between Rotherhithe and Wapping, this was the intended purpose of the Thames Tunnel, the passageway built below the surface of the Thames, 23 metres deep, 11 metres wide and almost 400 metres long. A true engineering miracle of Victorian London, a pioneering project destined to change the face, not only of London, but all the cities of the world. Creator of the tunnel, after a number of vain attempts by miners from Cornwall, was Marc Brunel, one of Great Britain’s most innovative civil engineers who patented a special sort of shielding device for digging, the so-called mole. This was a cast-iron shield behind which miners would work in separated compartments, similar to cages, as they dug out the tunnel before them. Surely today, as one crosses it on the “tube”, nobody makes much of it, but the Thames Tunnel was the first of its kind, built from 1825 to 1843, under a navigable river. Soon used by pedestrians before becoming a tourist attraction, in 1869 it was transformed into a railway tunnel, becoming part of London’s expansive tube system. In case you were wondering if it can still be crossed on foot, the answer is yes, thanks to a tour that starts at the Brunel Museum, from Rotherhithe to Wapping and back, which allows anyone to explore this engineering masterpiece. To find out more, just head to the Brunel Museum, where the story behind one of the most important construction projects in the world can be seen in the collection of drawings that depict the young Marc Brunel in an underwater chamber and even a boat floating within the tunnel itself.
Samantha De Martin - © 2020 ARTE.it for Bulgari Hotel London