It was a beautiful Autumn day in London yesterday, with watery sunshine and a slight chill in the air. A perfect day for walking. The Scribblaire’s other half had arranged for a trip to somewhere in London that we had never visited. I had thought that it might be to a church in The City that he had discovered recently, but I was wrong.
We boarded the train to Waterloo station and, on arrival, headed for the eastbound Jubilee line. Once above ground at Canada Water I was shown a sign pointing to the Brunel Museum and told that this was our destination. I must admit to feeling slightly deflated at first as I had imagined a large museum full of nineteenth century heavy engineering equipment and drawings.
We walked for about ten minutes, following the frequent signs for the museum until we arrived at our destination. We found the museum cafe and shop, but there was no sign of the large building that would be needed to hold the contents I had imagined. It turned out the the cafe/shop was also the museum. There were three floors to the building, one being the cafe and shop. Upstairs on a mezzanine floor there were some photographs and reproductions of paintings, and downstairs a fairly empty room with a TV screen and chairs.
We went to pay the £3.00 entrance fee and were told that 22nd September was ‘open house’ day, where many museums and places of interest were free to visit. It’s always nice to get something for free! We were told to wait until our guide came to take us on the tour. About five minutes later he arrived and asked the group of around 40 people to follow him outside.
After a health and safety talk, we were shown to the small entrance that we needed to crawl through before descending down some quite rickety temporary steps into a cavernous space. This was the entrance to Brunel’s tunnel which was used to bring equipment and people underground.
The tunnel was started by Marc Isambard Brunel and completed by his more famous son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was completed in 1843 and was the first under-river tunnel. This was made possible by Brunel Senior’s invention of the tunnelling shield, which is an approach still apparently used today.
We had hoped to see the tunnel(s), but these are still in use for trains, so it wasn’t possible.
The tour and talk took about half an hour, so we found ourselves out on the cobbled streets of Rotherhithe at lunchtime. We strolled around the corner, past the Mayflower pub
and stumbled across St Mary’s church, a lovely eighteenth century church. This was the place where the Mayflower started its journey and it’s captain, Christopher Jones, is buried here.