Isambard Kingdom Brunel's London

By M@ Last edited 67 months ago
Isambard Kingdom Brunel's London

Remnants of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway were recently discovered on a Crossrail site between Paddington and Westbourne Park. The engineer also made his mark on London through tunnels, bridges, viaducts and the largest ship the world had ever known, the SS Great Eastern.

Here's where you can still see his handiwork, along with the numerous commemorations to his life and work.

Paddington Station is perhaps London's most famous Brunel structure. The vast, arched roof was designed by Mr B in the 1850s and looks much today as it would have in Victorian times. Image by Jay Walsh under creative commons licence.
The Hanwell Viaduct, also known as the Wharncliffe Viaduct, is one of the engineering marvels of west London. Built for Brunel's Great Western Railway in 1836-7, it carries trains into and out of Paddington, 20 metres above the surrounding areas of Hanwell and Southall. This was Brunel's first major structural design. Two bonus facts: The hollow piers are home to a colony of bats, and the structure is Grade I listed. Image by IanVisits in the Londonist Flickr pool.
Along the Thames Path at Millwall you can see these Victorian timbers. It was here that Brunel's huge ship SS Great Eastern was launched in 1858. She was easily the largest ship of her time and capable of carrying 4,000 passengers. You've probably seen that famous photo of Brunel standing in front of a reel of chains - it was taken here at Millwall shortly before the launch.
The roundabout on the southern approach to the Rotherhithe Tunnel carries this unsubtle tribute to the great engineer.
A statue of Brunel can be found on Embankment near Temple tube. The simple inscription gives only his dates of birth and death and his occupation as civil engineer. The full-length statue is by Baron Carlo Marochetti who also created the statue of fellow engineer Robert Stephenson outside Euston, and the Richard the Lionheart statue outside the Houses of Parliament. Another statue of Brunel can be found at Paddington station.
Remains of Brunel's Great Western Railway were recently uncovered on a Crossrail site near Paddington. The relics of the 1830s show both standard gauge and Brunel's wide gauge rail beds.
The Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe tells the story of the Thames Tunnel, built by Brunel and his father Marc between 1825 and 1843. Occasional events also make use of the museum's tunnel shaft space.
The Thames Tunnel itself, seen on a rare open weekend when the lines were closed to trains. The tunnel was dug between 1825 and 1843, and was the first tunnel ever excavated beneath a major river. It was originally pedestrian-only, but was later converted to rail use. It remains in service today on the London Overground network.
Brunel's Hungerford Bridge, shown here, initially opened in 1849 as a footbridge, but was soon converted to rail use. The suspension chains were re-used in the Clifton Suspension Bridge (also by Brunel). Most of Brunel's structure is long gone, but the round piers can still be seen today. Image public domain.
Three Bridges, near Hanwell, was completed in 1859 — Brunel's final major project. It sees a canal, rail line and road all converge on the same point. Our man was also responsible for Brentford Dock, a couple of miles away where the canal meets the Thames.

Images by the author unless otherwise stated.

Last Updated 29 November 2017