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An Engineering breakthrough by Marc Brunel since 1824
Location: Nr Wapping Rose Garden
Description: This is the North Bank entrance to Brunel's famous Thames Tunnel, built between 1824 and 1843.
It was the first tunnel built under a major river since Roman times. After two previous attempts had failed, Marc Brunel undertook the project using his invention of a tunnelling shield which allowed the workers to bore manually into the subsoil and line the walls of the resulting tunnel shaft as the work progressed. This method is still used today, except that manual labour is replaced by machines.
It was dangerous work, and 10 people died in the construction of the tunnel. Marc Brunel himself was injured and his son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, nearly drowned when the partially completed tunnel was flooded.
It was opened in 1843 by Queen Victoria to great acclaim but the money had run out before the planned ramps, which would have allowed horse-drawn carriages to use the tunnel, were built.
It was used as a foot tunnel until in 1869 the East London Line took it over to transport passengers by rail under the river between Rotherhithe and Wapping.
If you have an appropriate Zone 2 ticket you can descend the original shaft on to the platform of what is today Wapping East London Line Station. Here you can see fascinating historical pictures of the tunnel starting from its original use as a foot tunnel.
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