This Week In London’s History
Random London Fact Of The Week
The tunnel that the East London Line currently uses to pass under the Thames is known, rather uninventively, as the Thames Tunnel. However, the tunnel’s unoriginal name belies its origins – it was the world’s first ever underwater tunnel.
Designed by Marc Isambard Brunel (father of Isambard Kindgon Brunel) in 1823, it took more than 15 years to construct. Occasional flooding and methane explosions made the tunnel’s construction a risky operation, causing the death of several workers. However, despite the project’s fatalities and huge costs, the tunnel was hailed as the “eighth wonder of the world” when it opened, thanks in part to the innovative use of a ‘tunnel shield’ to enable its construction, which was described by the Illustrated London News thus:
The mode in which this great excavation was accomplished was by means of a powerful apparatus termed a shield, consisting of twelve great frames, lying close to each other like as many volumes on the shelf of a book-case, and divided into three stages or stories, thus presenting 36 chambers of cells, each for one workman, and open to the rear, but closed in the front with moveable boards. The front was placed against the earth to be removed, and the workman, having removed one board, excavated the earth behind it to the depth directed, and placed the board against the new surface exposed. The board was then in advance of the cell, and was kept in its place by props; and having thus proceeded with all the boards, each cell was advanced by two screws, one at its head and the other at its foot, which, resting against the finished brickwork and turned, impelled it forward into the vacant space. The other set of divisions then advanced. As the miners worked at one end of the cell, so the bricklayers formed at the other the top, sides and bottom.
London’s Weather This Week
By all accounts, the sunshine will be interrupted by plenty of rain at some point this week. The forecasters can’t quite agree when it will come, but they seem to think that it will be quite heavy when it does arrive. On the positive side – a hosepipe ban is looking unlikely.