Tuesday 2 August 2016

The Brunel Museum

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you might remember me mentioning the wonderfulness that is the National Art Pass.

"The National Art Pass gives you free entry to over 225 museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK as well as half price entry to the major new exhibitions." It's great!

It's saved me loads of money on my Nice Days Out and led to me visiting dozens of interesting places I'd otherwise never have visited, and many I'd otherwise never have even heard of.

One of my recent "places I visited because it's free with my Art Pass but it turned out to be awesome, you should totally go whether you have an Art Pass or not"... is the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe.


The museum is housed in an old engine house. It's petite but interesting, telling the story of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel's first and last projects - the Thames Tunnel (the brainchild of his father, Marc Brunel) and the iron steam sailing ship Great Eastern.

The story of the Thames Tunnel is one I didn't know before. It was an amazing feat of engineering but the work was long, difficult and dangerous and overran by 15 years - and Isambard nearly drowned in the process!

Outside the museum, there's a small paved area with benches shaped like Brunel's bridges (including the railway bridge at Maidenhead).

There's also a gorgeous little garden (which is free to visit).

You go up a narrow set of steps...


... and wow, what a riot of colour and scent!

During the summer the garden is host to campfire cocktail evenings which sound kind of amazing.

This isn't just a pretty garden though - it's built on top of the shaft sunk by Marc Brunel so he could begin digging the Thames Tunnel. Part of the shaft is still visible above ground, and has been decorated with a mural based on a watercolour sketch done by Marc Brunel showing his plan for the tunnel.

When you visit the museum, you can actually go down into the shaft itself (accompanied by a guide, of course!) and stand in the space where the tunnel building began, where millions of visitors paid a penny to walk through the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and where Isambard Kingdom Brunel was rescued after nearly drowning. 

This was quite a spooky space to be in! I've never been anywhere quite like it. 

Hurrah for the Art Pass and hurrah for small museums!

Click here for more info about the Brunel Museum and the history of the Thames Tunnel.


Polly said...

Looks like a very interesting museum, and I love the bridge benches! Fun little touches like that make me so happy.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Me too! Such love and thoughtfulness goes into details like that :)