Brunel Museum Shines A Light On The Irish Workers Who Built The Thames Tunnel

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Brunel Museum Shines A Light On The Irish Workers Who Built The Thames Tunnel


A new commission that celebrates the contributions of Irish migrant workers to the creation of the Thames Tunnel has been announced.

Rotherhithe’s Brunel Museum — itself dedicated to the story of this ambitious subterranean passageway and the engineering family that made it possible —  has teamed up with the local Irish community and educational theatre troupe Spectrum Drama for a stirring musical performance filmed inside the museum’s Grade II-listed tunnel.

Brunel Museum. Image: Matt Brown

The performance, which will be released online on St Patrick’s Day (17 March), draws on the experiences of those who helped build the tunnel that connects Rotherhithe and Wapping during the first half of the 19th century. Conditions here were gruelling; workers faced a constant threat of flooding or gas lamp explosions and were sometimes forced to sleep inside the damp, dark tunnel.

Not only will the performance illustrate the experiences of these workers, but it’ll also compare them with more recent migrations of the Rotherhithe Irish community — exploring hardship, perseverance, and the construction of our modern city.

If that intrigues you, we recommend keeping an eye on Brunel Museum’s social media channels for the latest updates. The museum has also launched virtual tours of the museum site at different points in history — visit its website to see how it looked in 1843, when the tunnel first opened, and in 1869, the year it was converted into a railway line.

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