The new staircase by Tate Harmer in The Grand Entrance Hall

The former entrance shaft to the historic Thames Tunnel in London has become a newly restored underground performance space and a key exhibit for the Brunel Museum.

The Thames Tunnel is one of the oldest tunnels in the London Underground, and was designed by Marc Brunel, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s father.

Isambard used to organise underground fairs and banquets inside the grand entrance hall to the tunnel, which was one of his first ever projects in the mid-nineteenth century; he worked on it with his father, and it was the only project that father and son worked on together.

Now, the Grade II listed shaft that goes into the grand entrance hall of the tunnel has been transformed into a performance space for music and theatre, 190 years after the original construction began.

A new perspective

Previously, visitors would enter the huge underground chamber through a half height doorway and down temporary scaffolding to a floor suspended above the space below.

Now, a new doorway gives level access, through landscaped gardens, to a new exhibition, gallery and performance space.

The grand entrance hall (or ‘sinking’) shaft is accessible to the public via a new freestanding staircase, designed by Tate Harmer architects.

The transformation project has been launched by the Brunel Museum, with the aim of raising awareness of the legacy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the UK’s industrial heritage.

Groups visiting the shaft can observe smoke-blackened brick walls from steam trains, and marvel at Tate Harmer’s ‘ship-in-a-bottle’ design. The staircase is completely independent of the underground structure, and visitors are able to use this new access point as a means to descend into the performance space below.

Group visits

GTOs should visit the Brunel Museum website for details on upcoming theatre productions and concerts taking place this year; a schedule is still to be announced. 

There are currently guided tours of the shaft every lunchtime for those who’d like an in-depth explore of the underground area; organisers should email for group booking information.

For further information visit

(Photo credit: Raftery + Lowe).