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Friday, 12 September 2014

#hipstermuseum - The Brunel Museum and Engine House

With the city of London so full of speakeasies and the constant barometer of fun judged by the weekly free Time Out it's rare to find something so refreshingly and gloriously hidden in London. The Brunel Museum has received much coverage and with an excellent and interactive presence on twitter we have been reminded weekly of its Midnight Apothecary event during the summer months. Yet with its odd location in the transient area of Rotherhithe surrounded by new builds (undoubtedly owned by City types impressed with their bargain view of the Thames) it's taken us a while to actually visit and experience the delights of the tucked away museum in south of the river. And you know what we've certainly missed out on a few excellent nights in the Brunel Museum. 

Situated inside the engine room the Brunel Museum explores the eighteen year construction of the first underwater tunnel and Victorian Disneyland stretching from Rotherhithe to Wapping - the infamous Thames tunnel. 

With limited space and collection this hipster museum went to town to show off some of the best with its numbered exhibits yet cleverly show the industrial and social impact of Brunel's  great feat, rarely finding more than an intense dislike for industrial models the casing of the Brunel museums main exhibit proved it to be a necessary illustration of the tunnel technique still used today to build the underground and souvenirs from the opening of the tunnel displayed in innovative showcases  allowing visitors to view all angles of peep shows documenting the fairground atmosphere present at the opening of the tunnels.

Fancy way to display paper works
One room is all that hosts the small collection of souvenirs and illustrative models from the Brunel museum and although interesting it can be a bit static. Yet the remainder of the visit soon made the £5 fee for the evening a bargain. Climbing up a narrow staircase to the sort of urban garden that you only see in movies the museum transformed from a small site  specific collection to a tremendous community museum. With a fancy cocktail bar one end and a fire pit in the centre the garden makes for a perfect summers evening, especially as you see the bar staff rummaging around the wild flowers foraging for edible flowers to add to the pretty and scrummy booze. 

But the fun doesn't end at the bottom of the plant filled cocktail glass,  the real show stopper comes as a tour guide (ours named Tim starred in four weddings and a funeral and wrote the theme tune to Rainbow -bonus London points for him) leads you down into the tunnels entrance by crouching through a narrow doorway and into one of my new favourite places in London.  The grand entrance hall sixty feet in diameter and sixty feet deep lit by an assortment of coloured light filters left each member of the tour group breathless, the sheer history is daunting especially we an illustrated reminder of what it once was meeting you at the bottom of the staircase. It took eighteen years to build and was only open for twelve the Thames tunnel drove underwater tunnelling and became one of the first large scale tourist attractions when 50,000 people arrived on its opening day in 1853 it was soon known as the eighth wonder of the world. Especially with the festival vibe those visitors encountered as the two archways hosted market stalls and fire eaters! Standing in the vicinity of so much history you can see why as 161 years later the space is just as awe inspiring as before (and we're used to the vast depths of the underground!) still it's life was short lived as the pedestrian crossing was soon filled with all of the baddies if the Victorian era pickpockets and prostitution led it to a den of deceit and it was closed in 1869

The brunel museum is open 10am  - 5pm daily and hosts a range of exciting events midnight apothecary is on every Saturday until the end of September and serve really bloody good cocktails!

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