"Like one of the long avenues of light that lead to the abodes of the genii in fairy tales" - Fanny Kemble, 1827. The story of "The Brunels' Tunnel" under the River Thames is a combination of drama, ingenuity, showmanship and sheer engineering courage that will probably never be seen again. This book illustrates the challenges that the great Brunels' faced at a time when this mind-boggling engineering feat was in development and reveals how they overcame difficulties with incredible solutions. It details the problems with unhealthy working conditions, leakages, a skeptical society and public fears that led the Brunels to hold a banquet inside the tunnel itself to spawn public confidence in the project and create broad appeal.Characterised by innovation, technical ability, flair and practicality, this book shows that the Brunels also had an acute marketing sense, as Marc Brunel did everything possible to charm the public down into the strange, somewhat threatening, subterranean world in order for the project ultimately to be a success.
As this illustrated paperback depicts, boldness and great optimism continued to typify the mindset on the project team until the first Londoners walked from one side of the city to the other, beneath the Thames, in 1843. This was the crowning glory of the tunnel's chief engineer, Marc Brunel, who came up with the idea of using a steel case as a tunnel boring shield. This method is still used in all great underground boring projects nearly two hundred years later.When the railways came in the1860s pedestrian access was sacrificed to the new and much more commercial technology, and to this day the Thames Tunnel is still used as a vital part of London's transport system. This great underwater crossing was a feat of engineering which the Victorians called the Eighth Wonder of the World. Its continued use today as part of the East London Line is testimony to the far-sighted technical skill of Marc and Isambard Brunel, who was recently voted the second-greatest Briton ever in a BBC poll. The Brunels' Tunnel, the first of an underground network that transformed London city's life, is something of which Londoners always were, and should always remain, rightly proud.
This book reminds today's engineers to take hold of the popular imagination by creating a combination of public pleasure, wonder and excitement through innovative work.This is a chronology of the Thames Tunnel: 1798: Ralph Dodd's attempt at a tunnel between Gravesend and Tilbury fails; 1802: Robert Vazie proposes a tunnel between Rotherhithe and Limehouse; 1805: The newly formed Thames Archway Company is empowered to undertake the project; 1807: Vazie begins his tunnel; 1808: The tunnel is flooded just less than 200 ft short of completion and is abandoned; 1818: Marc Brunel patents a device for 'Forming Drifts and Tunnels Under Ground'; 1821: Marc Brunel is imprisoned for debt; 1824: FEB - Marc creates great enthusiasm for the idea of a tunnel when he gives a lecture to the Institution of Civil Engineers. MARCH - Marc enlists the support of the Duke of Wellington. JUNE - The parliamentary Bill defining the powers of the Thames Tunnel Company for 'Making and Maintaining a Tunnel under the Thames' receives the Royal Assent.The chronology further includes: 1825: MARCH - The formal opening of work on the shaft at Rotherhithe takes place.
JUNE - The top of the brick tower is sunk below ground level. NOVEMBER - The boring of the tunnel begins; 1827: JANUARY - Isambard Brunel, who has been acting as resident engineer for several months, is officially confirmed in the appointment. MAY - Protesting about cuts in their wages, the miners go on strike. The first major flood. The tunnel is 549 ft long. AUGUST - Marc suffers a paralytic stroke. NOVEMBER - The celebration banquet takes place in the tunnel. Work begins again; 1828: JANUARY - Second major flood. Six men are killed and Isambard is injured. The tunnel is 605 ft long. FEBRUARY - Isambard suffers the first of a series of haemorrhages and is laid up for several months. AUGUST - The tunnel is bricked up after a new issues of shares fails to raise adequate money.The chronology further includes: 1834: APRIL - The Tunnel Club is founded by Fellows of Royal Society at the Spreadeagle and Crown inn (now the Mayflower) opposite the tunnel works on Marc Brunels 65th birthday.
DECEMBER - The first part of a GBP 270,000 loan from the Treasury is made over to the Thames Tunnel Company; 1835: The new shield is installed underground and tunneling restarts; 1837: AUGUST - Third major flood. The tunnel is 736 ft long. NOVEMBER - Forth major flood. One miner is killed. The tunnel is 742 ft long; 1838: Fifth major flood. The tunnel is 763 ft long; 1839: The tunnel reaches the low-water mark on the Wapping shore; 1840: MARCH - Marc is knighted by Queen Victoria. JUNE - Marc takes possession of the land for the Wapping shaft.The chronology further includes: 1841: The tunnel reaches the Wapping shaft; 1843: MARCH - The Thames Tunnel is opened to pedestrian traffic. It is 1,200 ft long.
JULY - Queen Victoria visits the tunnel; 1852: The first Thames Tunnel Fancy Fair is held; 1865: The tunnel is formally handed over to the East London Railway; 1869: The first passenger train on the East London Railway passes through the tunnel; 1973: A charity is established to restore the old engine house, by now a scheduled ancient monument; 1980: The restored building is opened as the Brunel Engine House Museum; 2002: The Museum earns the Freedom of the Ancient Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey, a civic award for services to the community; 2005: The Museum achieves the status of a Registered Museum and changes its name to the Brunel Museum; and 2006: Just before the bicentennial of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's birth, the Museum welcomes its 50,000th visitor.