Hattie Lloyd 13/10/21
Turns out, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is big enough to fit your whole body in.
In fact, it sees an average of 4,000 bodies walk through it every day, passing from Greenwich in the south, 50 feet below the river, to the Isle of Dogs in the north. It was the second tunnel to be built below the Thames, as an alternative to ferry crossings or walking along to the nearest bridges closer to central London.
Construction began on Greenwich Foot Tunnel in 1899 and was overseen by the London Bridges Committee, chaired by labour councillor and former dock worker Will Crooks. A notable social reformer, he wanted to improve conditions for the dock workers who had to commute across the river in all weathers to reach the shipyards on the north bank. The plans were approved, and three years later the subterranean tunnel had its grand opening, helping the entire workforce… of 15 people.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel’s still open to the public 24 hours a day, is free to use, and is accessible by spiral staircases and a pair of cranky, wood-panelled lifts – they’re almost constantly out of order, but given they’re 118 years old, it’s not surprising. It takes about 5 minutes to walk along its 370m to the other side, all of which– because the Victorians were particular about these things – is neatly surfaced with 200,000 glazed subway tiles, except the section that was bomb-damaged in WWII.
You can spot the tunnel by its peculiar-looking entrances: standalone glass domes either side of the Thames. On the south bank of the river, you’ll find the entrance by the Cutty Sark, an equally incongruous looking tall ship from 1869. Take a subterranean stroll through the tunnel, and you’ll pop up in Island Gardens in Mudchute – which is more scenic than it sounds – with stunning views of time-warped Greenwich to look back on. In fact, crossing from the 17th century Queen’s House in Greenwich to the glass skyscrapers of Canary Wharf…
…Greenwich Foot Tunnel’s practically the closest thing we’ve got to time travel.
NOTE: Greenwich Foot Tunnel is open 24/7, and is free to use. You can double check if the lifts are working before you go HERE.
Thames Path, Cubitt Town, London E14 3UX (North Side)
Greenwich Foot Tunnel, Greenwich, London SE10 9HT (South Side)
While you’re in the area… check out Greenwich’s best pubs
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