Tag Archives: num:ScienceMuseum-1987-1056

Building the Rotherhithe Tunnel

In my last post I told you about my weekend of London tunnel visits, culminating in an exceedingly rare chance to walk through Brunel’s Thames Tunnel from Rotherhithe to Wapping.

Well, to help acclimatise to the underground world of Rotherhithe, my friends and I had spent the morning in training, by walking through the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

Entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, 2010 (David Rooney)

Unlike its 1840s counterpart a shade further west, built for pedestrians and taken over by the railway, the Rotherhithe Tunnel, opened in 1908, was originally for horse-drawn traffic but soon overrun with motor vehicles. But pedestrians have always been allowed through.

In the Rotherhithe Tunnel, 2010 (David Rooney)

To be honest, our walk was pretty hard work. The pavements are narrow, the vehicles many, the air fume-laden and the noise infernal. We really had to keep our wits about us. But it was well worth it, just to experience another historic Thames tunnel.

And historic it really is. When I got home, I looked to see what our collections hold on the tunnel, and what I discovered blew me away. Buried in our stores is a set of 56 original photographic prints depicting the construction of the tunnel.

Here’s a tiny taster of what I found:

Construction of the Rotherhithe Tunnel (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Construction of the Rotherhithe Tunnel (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Construction of the Rotherhithe Tunnel (Science Museum / Science & Society)

How’s that for a bit of London history! If you want to see all 56 in all their glory, go to our picture library website and type ‘Rotherhithe Tunnel’ into the search box. And keep these remarkable pictures in mind next time you’re stuck in traffic down the Rotherhithe Tunnel…