Birthplace of the Tubes

1. Are you an architecture or history nerd?

2. Do you like the words ‘free’ and ‘adventure’?

Yeah?  Then check out Open House London – a magical weekend of free entrance to old, quirky, significant, or artsy buildings around Londontown.  If you hurry, you can catch the tail end of this year’s tour, which ends today.

Sal and I went to the Thames Tunnel  near Rotherhithe Station.  (Rotherhithe.  I like saying it.  Rotherhithe!)  They’ve opened the Grand Hall as part of the Brunel Museum, which was worth waiting in the 40 minute queue to see.

One by one, we duck inside a hobbit door and wind around a narrow metal stair into the belly of the earth.  It’s cold, damp and echo-y, and a bit eerie, with black scorch marks on the rounded walls.


“Six men died in here,” the tour man’s voice echoes.  He draws our attention to a ‘light and sound’ art installation commemorating the miners that died in a flood while digging the tunnel.  Shouts and industrial noises emanate from illuminated bodies of buried miners.

The structure, he tells us, was built above ground and sunk into the earth – a technique pioneered in the Victorian era with the construction of this very dome.   It once lead directly to the Thames Tunnel, where aristocrats had posh banquets, Victorian city folk walked under the river, and browsed underground shops.

And if that ain’t enough history for you, it’s also the birthplace of the tubes.  Every so often, the cement floor rumbles with a passing train below our feet.

The Midnight Apothecary


We’re coming back to for an evening underground concert and perhaps a mint julep or blackberry martini in the pop-up fairy garden bar, the Midnight Apothecary.


One response to “Birthplace of the Tubes

  1. Pingback: underground concert « blatherings

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