Today (March 25) in London History – the first tunnel under a river anywhere in the world

On March 25th, 1843 the Thames Tunnel opened. It was the engineering feat that changed everything. Robert, the founding director of the Brunel Museum, tells the tale for this episode of the Today in London History podcast.


Today in London. For reasons that will be lit up like a fireworks display in a matter of a minute or two, the London Walks recommendation I’m making on this podcast is the London Walk that includes a boat trip over the Thames Tunnel and a train journey through it. Be sure to look through the carriage windows for the arches that once held shops – shops under the river Thames. Shops selling Victorian tourist tat. What I wouldn’t give to have a piece of that 200-year-old tourist tat on one of the bookshelves in my study. Anyway, the tour goes at 10.15 am every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Embankment Tube. And you want to turn a great morning into a perfect half-day, have lunch after the tour at the oldest pub on the River Thames, the Mayflower. On a fine day it doesn’t get any better than sinking a pint on the Mayflower’s outside decked jetty, looking out across the Thames…and for good measure getting a bead on the original 1620 mooring point of the pilgrim father’s Mayflower ship. 

And on that note, I’m going to hand over to Robert for the rest of this podcast. An internationally recognised authority on Brunel, Robert was the founding director of the Brunel Museum. He’s the author of the standard books on the subject. He’s lectured all over the world on the greatest civil engineer in world history. For good measure, he’s wrestled naked in front of a wood fire.

There, that’s thrown you hasn’t it. And yes, I suppose an explanation’s in order. When Robert came down from Oxford, he was, in the first act or his career, an actor. His first film credit was playing DH Lawrence in DH Lawrence High Priest of Love. So, yes, like Alan Bates, Robert’s been on the big screen wrestling naked in front of a wood fire.

Here we go – Today in London History. 

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