LONDON.- Thanks to funding from Renaissance London, Visitors to Rotherhithe have a last opportunity to experience one of the wonders of the Victorian age before it closes forever. One of Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunels engineering triumphs, contemporaries of the age called it the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Thames Tunnel has been closed to the public for 145 years and will now reopen as the impressive finale of Londons EAST Festival.
Tours through the tunnel, from Rotherhithe to Wapping and then back again, will give walkers the chance to marvel at this astonishing achievement, including the grand entrance hall. This particular part of the tunnel was built above water and then submerged below ground under its own weight. The space is half the size of the Globe Theatre and was a place for actors and performers to entertain the thronging crowds. The 1867 arch at the Rotherhithe entrance to the tunnel is another highlight of the tour.
To mark this incredible occasion and the Brunels remarkable feat, the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe will host a recreation of a Fancy Fair, originally held in the bowels of the tunnel deep beneath the Thames in 1852.
Audiences will encounter strange and wonderful Victorian characters, hear strains of the 1840 commissioned Thames Tunnel Waltz, enjoy cosmoranic views and music by steam, witness Victorian aerialist and juggler performances in the shaft itself, partake of historic food and drink and shop at stalls promising multifarious trumpery, cheroot boxes, spinning tops and other paraphernalia.
Opened in 1852, the tunnel gripped the nations imagination, nothing had been seen like it before and it created an atmosphere of excitement, wonder and joy, it was the first of an underground network that transformed the life of London. Illuminated by a string of lights running its 1,300 foot length, by the end of the first week of its opening over half the population of London had paid to walk the shining avenue of light to Wapping. The tunnel soon took on a life of its own with a shopping arcade, theatre and a reputation for the bawdy carnivalesque sideshows and entertainments the Victorians have become known for. The tunnel was even graced with a visit from Queen Victoria herself with Prince Albert and Lord Byron in tow. It is now classed as an International Landmark Site, one of six in the UK.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson commented: A wonderful and rare opportunity to experience one of Londons great engineering achievements.
Tickets are available through London Transport Museum 0207 565 7298 to book