Isambard Kingdom Brunel 1806-1859

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Brunel was born in Portsmouth on 9 April the first child and only son of Marc Brunel, a French exile, and Sophia Kingdom. He received a technical education in England and France whilst working alongside his father in his engineering design office. Both Marc and Isambard lived at 98 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea once part of Lindsey House. In 1825 they began constructing the Thames Tunnel, the first of its kind, using a tunnelling shield designed by Marc Brunel. His son, as the engineer in charge of construction, was almost killed when water broke through and the costly project came close to bankrupting Marc Brunel. Work was suspended between 1828 and 1836 and the tunnel was finally completed in 1843. It was only available to pedestrians as there had been no money to build the access ramps required for horses. In 1865 it was adapted to serve as a railway tunnel, a function it retains as the East London line of the Underground now runs through it. You can view the tunnel from Rotherhithe and Wapping station platforms and it is depicted in the tiles at Wapping. The access stairs at Wapping are original and at Rotherhithe are the remains of the 80' diameter shaft and the engine house. This Grade II listed building contains the only surviving compound horizontal V steam engine built by Rennie and an exhibition about the construction of the tunnel.

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