The Brunel Museum is a fascinating walk through history — Photo courtesy of Ewan-M The Brunel Museum is situated above the Thames Tunnel, Brunel's amazing feat of engineering which saw him construct the oldest underwater tunnel in the oldest metro system in the world.
A visit to this London museum tells visitors how he built the tunnel, which took 18 long years and cost many lives. If you book a guided tour, you can climb down into the shaft which used to serve the tunnel, and listen to an actor/guide recreate the conditions that Brunel and his workers faced more than 185 years ago when they started construction.
In 2013, the museum is celebrating 170 years since the tunnel was opened. It became first the site of an underground banqueting hall, to help raise money to finish construction, then a parade of underground shops, and a major tourist attraction of the Victorian age.
Going down into the tunnel's shaft, the basis for modern engineering is revealed — Photo courtesy of Donna_Rutherford
170 years after its opening, the museum will be staging a series of events throughout the year, including guided tours of the tunnel, the shaft, and staging a Victorian fair to recreate the time in which Brunel lived. When it first opened, more than a million Londoners paid a penny to walk through the tunnel and marvel at the engineering. The penny also helped them avoid the long wet crossing by boat which many in Rotherhithe were used to before the tunnel opened.
It's a fascinating piece of history and the museum is simply but brilliantly done. There's also a gift shop where you can buy books which tell you even more about the history, and a delicious cafe serving Turkish and English food, light bites and afternoon tea. The museum also runs various special events, from pop up opera, to guided walks through Brunel's old tunnels which now house the busy East London Line underground railway.