FOGWOFT has passed to GIHS a number of cuttings about a proposed tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich in the 1870s. Strangely these are all press reports from the North of England. GIHS would be glad to hear from anyone who has more information on this tunnel - which was hitherto unknown to us.
The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (25th August 1876) says that the tunnel was started at 4 am ‘on Wednesday morning’. It says the contractors are Messrs Sharpe of Cannon Street under the superintendence of Mr. Gilbert, engineer. It says nine men were drowned in the fog.
The Sheffield Dally Telegraph (1st September 1876) says in a short report that it is quoting a report in La Revue Nouvelle de l’Architecture et ses Travaux Publique. It says work has already started on the north bank and will take 8-9 months. It says the soil is ‘calcareous’ and this suitable for a tunnel. It says that the reason this ‘subway’ is being started is because of an accident on the Thames in the fog when the ferry was unable to run and eight people were drowned when they tried to cross ‘in a boat’.
Daily Gazette, Middlesborough (13th January 1877). This is a very long and very detailed piece on a very dodgy photocopy – and I am quoting the bare bones of it here. It is headed ‘Engineering Enterprise at Middlesborough’. Basically it says the work is being done by Messrs. Collins and Thompson (of Middlesborough, of course). It says the machinery is the invention of Mr. Greathead – and it describes the workings of the Greathead Shield – which is well known and the principles behind the method are still those by which underwater tunnels have been built since.
Northampton Mercury (9th June 1977). This point out the need for workers at the Arsenal who live north of the river to have an alternative crossing to the steam ferries. It will only cost £75,000. People will be charged 1d. to cross.
Essex Newsman (23rd June 1877) and Chelmsford Chronicle (22nd June 1877). This says the tunnel is ‘actively proceeding’ . At North Woolwich it is ‘immediately adjoining the station of the Great Eastern Railway Company’ and will terminate at The High Street, Woolwich. It will be 1,800 ft long and will be accessed via ‘an enclosed road’ with an ‘unusually steep gradient’ (1:8) and will be 444 ft long. The tunnel will lie 25ft-35ft below the river bed and is made up of a circular tube of iron 9 ft in diameter and about 12ft in height. It should take four people walking abreast. They add that it will be very useful to take troops and artillery guns across the river.
Portsmouth Evening News (18th March 1879) they say that the work has ‘been in abeyance but has now started. The contract is with Mr. Walker and it will be open for foot traffic
So – your ideas and information very welcome. Are there any remains of it under the river somewhere??