Model, showing how the first tunnel was built below a navigable waterway. Described at the time as the Eighth Wonder of the World., this is the ancestor of the Channel Tunnel.
Constructed by Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who later built the Great Western Railway. Marc Brunel's solution to the problems of tunnelling below the Thames was to use an iron shield to protect workers. Within the shield a framework of 36 working positions held the tunnellers. However, they suffered from filthy sewage-contaminated water seeping from the river above, as well as noxious gases. The Thames then was an open sewer as the drainage system in London was primitive or non-existent.
The tunnel flooded regularly and men died. Work was abandoned for seven years; it finally opened to the public in March 1843. Not a financial success, the tunnel was an enormous public attraction.
Currently the East London Line Extension of London Underground runs through it.