The Brunel Museum is located inside the Brunel Engine House at the site of the southern entrance to the Thames Tunnel, the world’s first tunnel to be dug under a river, which was initially a foot tunnel but is now used by the East London line of the London Overground.
What to see at the Brunel Museum
The museum highlights the work on the tunnel by the engineers Marc Isambard Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The entrance hall is located inside the world’s first caisson (a watertight structure used in bridge and tunnel construction) where construction work on the tunnel began. The caisson is half the size of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and when it opened in 1843, it was the world’s most popular tourist attraction.
The bulk of the museum’s exhibits focus on the groundbreaking work of Brunel’s team building the Thames Tunnel. It includes displays about Marc Isambard Brunel’s tunnel shield, a pioneering technique that still forms the basis for modern tunnel construction.
The museum also has other exhibits about the work undertaken by the Brunels, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous bridges, his work on the Great Western Railway and his steamship design that revolutionised transatlantic shipping.
Visiting the Brunel Museum
The Brunel Museum is in Rotherhithe, across the River Thames from Wapping at the southern end of the Thames Tunnel. It is just a one-minute walk from Rotherhithe Overground station. The closest tube stations are Canada Water and Bermondsey, both around a 10-minute walk from the museum.
The museum hosts a variety of events including music and theatre inside the caisson and the Midnight Apothecary outdoor bar with cocktails and a campfire on the museum’s rooftop garden.
It is only a small museum and it shouldn’t take long to see all the exhibits, although visitors with an interest in engineering can easily spend over two hours here.
After visiting the museum, pop into the nearby Mayflower pub for a pint or two. The Mayflower is the oldest pub on the River Thames and is located on the spot where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from in July 1620.