Photography: Raftery + Lowe

The Victorian shaft of London’s Thames Tunnel has undergone an unlikely transformation into a cultural venue.

Called the Grand Entrance Hall, the underground space – opening today – will be run by The Brunel Museum and is set to host plays, operas, concerts and even weddings.

Thames Tunnel shaft theatre
Credit: The Brunel Museum

Architects Tate Harmer breathed new life into the 1843 Grade II*-listed shaft – originally designed by civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his father Marc – adding a cantilevered staircase to make the 75ft-deep hall accessible.

‘It was vital that the staircase and new entrance to the Rotherhithe shaft did not impact on its historical significance,’ said Tate Harmer partner Jerry Tate.

Thames Tunnel shaft theatre
Photography: Raftery + Lowe

‘We wanted to celebrate the raw nature of the Victorian industrial heritage while providing the public proper access for tours and performances.’

The shaft was originally used as the entrance to the first ever underwater tunnel structure, referred to as the Eighth Wonder of The World back in its heyday. These days, the tunnel forms part of Wapping Station and the East London line.

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