Nestled among the houses of the residential area just north of Canada Water Station is the Sir Marc Brunel Engine House, home to the Brunel Museum.
Captured in this redbrick building is the history of both father and son. These men are considered to be some of the greatest architects of their time. Marc Brunel designed and helped build the first underwater tunnel. Isambard Kingdom Brunel is responsible for building 25 railway lines, over 100 bridges and tunnels and the first modern ocean liner.
Since I am still new to London, I had never heard of Marc and Isambard Brunel. However, in the architecture class that I am currently taking, my professor has told us at every lesson that Paddington station is the oldest part of the tube network. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this new information that Isambard was the architect behind not only the beginning of the tube network, but many feats of construction.
The museum focuses on the first and last projects of Brunel: the first metro and the first modern ocean liner.
In 1825 construction began on the Thames Tunnel, which was hailed as the eighth wonder of the world at the time and was the first underground tunnel to be built. It was estimated to take three years to build, but ended up taking 18 years. The Engine House that has now become the Brunel Museum was built in 1842 the year before the tunnel in order to pump out water that entered the Thames Tunnel.
The museum is environmentally friendly. The outdoor spaces that are part of the museum are great to visit on a sunny day. The upper garden was established on top of the shaft and is used as a Community Food Garden to be managed by local people.
In the terrace just below the garden, there are also three creatively designed benches shaped like some of the bridges that Isambard Brunel built.
The Grand Entrance Hall is just down the staircase, under the upper garden. It only opened after 150 years since Brunel nearly drowned. The Museum has been launching a campaign to outfit the space to be used as a performance center.
The museum also hosts many concerts, heritage walks, lectures and other events. There are museum tours and boat tours to where Brunel’s last project, the Great Eastern (known as Leviathan) iron sailing steamship, was constructed and launched. It was the biggest ship for 50 years after it was launched in 1858.
To learn more and plan a visit to the Brunel Museum, visit www.brunel-museum.org.uk.