This is a sponsored article on behalf of The Brunel Museum.
Today, Rotherhithe is an unusually serene part of southeast London, with its quaint marinas, a wealth of green space, and plenty of picturesque riverside pubs.
Back in the 19th century, though, it was a bustling village teeming with mudlarks, coal whippers, and deal porters. These workers were the lifeblood of what were once enormously prosperous docks and, this summer, you’re invited to discover their world as part of The Brunel Museum’s fascinating new programme of walking tours.
As part of its Rotherhithe Then and Now tour, The Brunel Museum takes you all the way back to 1843, the year that the Thames Tunnel finally opened to the public.
This vast, subterranean passage was a triumph of civil engineering — the world’s first pedestrian crossing to run under a navigable river. You’ll learn about the impact its creators, the great engineers Marc Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, had on the neighbourhood alongside its lesser-known residents.
While the Brunels received the lion’s share of the glory for the Thames Tunnel, it wouldn’t exist without the workers who physically built it. Find out more about those who risked their lives to create what was once known as the “eighth wonder of the world”, on The Brunel Museum’s Who Were They? walking tour.
Public historian Sheldon K. Goodman will take you on a journey, exploring the lives and social histories connected to the Thames Tunnel workers, looking at the folklore of the miners, and superstitions held by them, as well as the lives of the workers’ families.
Rounding off The Brunel Museum’s terrific trio of walking tours is Bloomin’ Beautiful Rotherhithe, a chance to explore the hidden pockets of greenery that punctuate this part of the Docklands.
Your adventure begins at the Brunel Museum’s own rooftop oasis and continues across Southwark Park, the lush green corridor that links the River Thames with a network of quays and waterways. Along the way, you’ll learn a bit about the historical significance of such spaces, like the park’s connection to the 1911 Bermondsey Uprising — a women-led strike in protest of working conditions in local factories.
Tickets to both the Bloomin’ Beautiful Rotherhithe tour and the Rotherhithe Then And Now tour cost £12 each (or £10 for concessions). Meanwhile, the Who Were They? tour starts at £15 per person, and discounts are available across all events for National Art Pass holders.
Want to learn even more about this historic part of London? The Brunel Museum is the best place to discover the legacy of the Thames Tunnel, with exhibits housed inside Marc Brunel’s original Engine House and a chance to explore the tunnel’s original grand entrance house included with your £6 entrance fee.
Rotherhithe Then And Now takes place at 11am and 1pm on Friday 11 June and Friday 25 July. Tickets start at £10.
Bloomin’ Beautiful Rotherhithe takes place at noon and 2pm on selected Fridays, 11 June-23 July. Tickets start at £10.
Who Were They? runs 5.45pm-6.45pm on Thursday 24 June and Thursday 8 July. Tickets start at £15.