Title: Cross section of the workmen excavating the Thames Tunnel
Creator: T Blood
Description: From: Thames Tunnel Company, ‘An explanation of the works of the tunnel under the Thames from Rotherhithe to Wapping’, London: W. Warrington (1838).
The idea of a tunnel between Rotherhithe and Wapping was suggested by the civil engineer Marc Brunel (1769-1849) in 1824. A Parliamentary Bill for the Thames Tunnel Company for ‘Making and Maintaining a tunnel under the Thames’ was given Royal Assent in 1824, with work on the shaft at Rotherhithe beginning in March 1825. Two previous attempts at constructing a tunnel under the Thames had failed due to water ingress, but Marc Brunel’s tunnel was to use his patented tunnelling shield. The shield provided support to the mining operation whilst the tunnel was encased securely in brickwork. It comprised a series of fixed and adjustable frames that inched forward at a rate of initially around eight feet per week as the tunnelling progressed.
In the spring of 1827, the first major flood stopped work. Work restarted in the winter of 1827 and by the time the commemorative volume was published in 1838 the tunnel had flooded a further four times. In November 1841 the tunnelling reached Wapping. The tunnel was finally open in 1843.
The tunnel was intended for pedestrian and coach traffic but in 1865 it was sold to the East London Railway to be turned into a railway tunnel. It still exists, now forming part of the London Overground line.
Image reference: 08-31
Recommended print size: Up to 10 x 8 inches (25 x 14cm)