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Thames Tunnel

Thames Tunnel .—With the view of effecting a ready communication for wagons and other carriages, and foot-passengers, between the Surrey and Middlesex sides of the river, at a point where, from the constant passage of shipping, it would be inconvenient to rear a bridge, a tunnel  or sub-river passage was designed by a joint-stock company.  The idea of tunnelling under the river, by the way, was not a novel one.  In 1802 a company was got up with a similar notion, Trevethick, the inventor of the high-pressure engine, being its engineer.  It came to nought; and in 1825 Mr. (afterwards Sir) Marc Isambard Brunel began his tunnel, at a point about two miles below London Bridge, entering on the southern shore at Rotherhithe, and issuing at Wapping on the other.  The water broke in in 1827, and again in 1828, when six men perished.  After all the funds were exhausted, and the Government had advanced no less than £246,000 by way of loan, the work, after many delays, was opened in 1843.  The total, cost was £468,000.  The tunnel consisted of two archways, 1,300 feet long, the thickness of the earth being about 15 feet between the crown of the tunnel and the river's bed.  As a speculation—toll 1d.—it never paid.  The descent was by a deep, dirty staircase; and only one arch was open for foot-passengers.  But now that the East London Railway Company have purchased it, a wholesome change has come.  Some 40 trains are now running backwards and forwards through it, from Wapping to Rotherhithe, and thence to Deptford and New Cross, and vice versâ.  And so, at last, the once well-nigh useless scheme, which wore out Brunel's heart, has been, some twenty-two years after his death, made of great service to that part of London.