Saturday 8 November 2008

Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, south east London

Housed in a venerable old pump house, the two rooms of the Brunel Museum are devoted to the story of the construction of the first tunnel under a river anywhere in the world. The Thames Tunnel, hyped by the Victorians as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World', was designed by the pioneering engineer Marc Brunel. It opened in 1843, eighteen years after construction began. It is still used by Tube trains today. Unfortunately, this modest and somewhat unkempt museum (admission £2) fails to really convey the magnitude of this achievement. Pending the completion of a new museum enabling a much-needed expansion, the exhibits today are really limited to a model of the tunnel being constructed, some paintings and a couple of small, but clever, Victorian three-dimensional pictures of the tunnel. Downstairs, you can watch a DVD about Brunel's life, while the kids attempt to make their own 3D picture. There is a tiny cafe with a semi-obscured view of the river, while outside are a couple of unassuming sculptures of Tower Bridge and a steam engine aimed at children. 5/10