25 Mar: The Tunnel Under The Thames

Marc Brunel’s visionary under-water tunnel from Rotherhithe to Wapping finally opened to the public on 25th March, 1843. It had taken 18 years to build, and was massively over-budget, but was the first tunnel successfully created under a navigable river anywhere in the world.

Its construction had cost lives, caused controversy and changed the way tunnels would be built forever. But it soon became notorious as a gangway frequented by pickpockets and prostitutes.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Brunel had to build a vertical tunnel before embarking upon his horizontal one; tot up its takings as an enormously popular tourist attraction; and explain how the injuries sustained by Isambard Kingdom Brunel during its construction lead directly to his even more famous architectural masterpieces… 

Further Reading:

• ‘The Opening Of The Thames Tunnel’ (SS Great Britain Blog Brunel, 2021): https://www.ssgreatbritain.org/the-opening-of-the-thames-tunnel/

• ‘Open again after 145 years, the eighth wonder of the world’ (The Independent, 2010): https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/open-again-after-145-years-the-eighth-wonder-of-the-world-1920723.html

• ‘The Thames Tunnel Archive – Part 5/5’ (Brunel Museum London, 2022):