Director’s Diary: The Brunel Women and the Tunnel

Remember on Mother’s Day the talented Brunel women: Sophia who followed husband Marc into debtor’s prison, their daughter Sophie nicknamed ‘Brunel in Petticoats’ who promised to be a better engineer than Isambard and daughter-in-law Mary who married Isambard, raised a family and kept him on the rails.

This week we celebrated the opening of the Thames Tunnel on 25th March 1843, and on our Saturday London Walks ‘Brunel’s London’ we travelled through the Tunnel to the Mayflower pub, home of the Tunnel Club and toasted Sir Marc Brunel as the Fellows of the Royal Society did a hundred and seventy three years ago. 25th March 2016 was Good Friday, and Easter weekend last year we opened to the public with a new doorway and new staircase for the first time. This week we hosted Open day for Totally Thames Festival (big September event) and visits for schools and American colleges. On Tuesday Robert Elms BBC Radio London covered Rotherhithe in Round Your Manor listen here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04vfhmw#play . After Saturday’s Boat Trip we toasted Sir Marc Brunel at the Tunnel Club on the anniversary of the Tunnel’s opening on Saturday 25th March.

Next week we have the usual heritage walks and boat trips, another day in glorious sunshine at the Scandinavian Spring Market and on Friday the wonderful Gallery Singers: details below.

Sunday 26th March
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks
11.00-18.00 Scandimarket today for all things and tastes Scandinavian

Monday 27th March
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Tuesday 28th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Wednesday 29th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
18.15 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Thursday 30th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Friday 31st March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
19.30 Gallery Singers return to the Thames Tunnel Shaft to present an evening of music ‘Spirituals in the Tunnel’.
Saturday 1st April
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
13.30 lunch at the Tunnel Club, Mayflower pub upper room

Director’s Diary: Pedal hard and don’t wobble

This week we hosted a successful CD launch, school visits and meetings about a major building project to improve our visitor facilities and displays. A new 150 seat theatre means we need to upgrade, and we are preparing various applications for approval. This can be an exacting business, and I sometimes wonder how Brunel got on with Planning Departments and permissions.

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Director’s Diary: Happy Anniversaries!

Three successful openings this week:
Oxalis an exhibition of watercolours and oil paintings by Pam Miller in the Cafe Gallery
Colours of Eden with Baroque Blues and Jazz standards in the Grand Entrance Hall
Crocus and snowdrops round the memorial to Prince Lee Boo in the local churchyard…

This week, two visitors on our Brunel’s London boat trip show me photographs from Hacqueville, Normandy where the Brunel family farmed. In the village there is a monument and bas relief to Sir Marc: (more…)

Director’s Diary: Photographer snaps chains

We are working closely with Southwark councillors and Mayflower Compact partners on planning the Mayflower celebrations for 2020. LB Southwark is co-ordinating a first stage HLF application for a range of high profile events in the borough, because as more and more people now understand, the Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe! (more…)

Oxalis by Pam Miller, exhibition in the cafe gallery

The exhibition of water colours and oil paintings by Pam Miller will be at the Brunel Museum cafe gallery until March every day 10am – 5pm

Artist Statement:

“Nature and natural forms have always inspired me, and my reconnection with my own creativity began with walks along the shore of the river Thames around Rotherhithe, where I have lived for over twenty years.

“I have spent most of my working life teaching art in secondary schools in London and the North East, and I continue to moderate GCSE Art for the AQA examining board. I left teaching a few years ago to concentrate on my own artwork and creative pursuits.

“In my recent work, I continue to be inspired by nature. I am also continuing my exploration and experimentation with the medium of watercolours and oils.

“For over a year I have had an Oxalis Triangularis plant on my kitchen windowsill. I have studied my Oxalis at various times of the day, and this lovely delicate plant has been the inspiration for my latest work. I have been fascinated with the rich, intense colour and shape of the leaves and how at times they seem to take on the appearance of a butterfly’s wings. This metamorphosis is especially noticeable as the leaves begin to ‘close up’ in the evening.

“I do hope you enjoy my recent work.”

 

 

 

 

 

Director’s Diary: Piers & Races & River Crossings

Last week was busy, despite the hurricane: three school groups met Brunel in person (our costumed actor), five heritage boat trips and three windswept riverside walks and a well attended concert of Renaissance music. I am relieved to say no structural damage at the Museum. On Tuesday I was guest at The Annual Dinner of The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames, a lavish affair held in the Fishmongers’ Hall overlooking London Bridge. One of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies, so their Great Hall is very opulent. The guard of honour were champion oarsmen from the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race, who lined the staircase in their fine red coats with large silver badges on one arm. Their race is the world’s longest continuously-running sporting event and at nearly 5 miles the longest boat race in the world. This year it is held Tuesday 25th July, best view from Brunel’s Boat trip. I tell one of the guards I am also a racer. I was last at Fish Hall for the Totally Thames Festival, when I received from the River Police a flask of water taken at the source of the river. I took the same under the river through Brunel’s Tunnel, and dutifully passed on to Greenwich National Maritime Museum. Not gruelling, I explain, but nevertheless this was a Thames River Relay: from Source to Sea

At the foot of the staircase stands a fierce wooden statue, life size, brandishing a dagger. This is City fishmonger Sir William Walworth, Lord Mayor of London. In 1381 (in the presence of King Richard II) he stabbed Wat Tyler to death and so ended the Peasants’ Revolt. We are all flattered by the courtesy and ceremony at Fish Hall, but we are also on our best behaviour…

I am also here because The Brunel Museum is part of a group lobbying for a Mayflower Pier, opposite the museum and close by the jetty from where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed. We are aiming for completion 2020, in time for the four hundredth anniversary of the famous voyage. Interesting that the centre of London has moved back east, along with the Greater London Assembly, the financial institutions at Canary Wharf and many new residents in new housing developments, both in Southwark and further east on the Olympic site. East London needs more crossing points, be they bridges or tunnels or river piers, and a Rotherhithe Pier will regenerate the area and bring visitors and inward investment to this pretty part of London. We have been talking to The Company of Watermen and Lightermen about the new pier, and now I am guest at their Annual Dinner. From Fishmongers’ Hall the view of London Bridge is stunning, and just downstream is Tower Bridge where last week I blogged a bridge lift, viewed through the glass walkway. Transparency is very important planning river crossings.,

BBC1’s TABOO has now ended, to plaudits for a derring do series finale and some flinching for brutal encounters. In case you had not realised, The Guardian
explains the programme’s resonance for us here at the heart of a new imperialist darkness. The burden of the story is the East India Company, and we expose something of their doings on our boat trips five times every week, but the other inspiration for our hero Delaney is Marlow in James Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. As you will know if you have walked with us on a Sunday, Monday or Wednesday (Bermondsey to Rotherhithe), the heart of the darkness is not in Africa. And notice that Delaney’s East India ship is not heading east, but like Brunel’s Great Eastern, it is first going west to America. And via the Azores. Brunel Museum and London Walks, your first stop for geo-politics…

This week we have school visits, and the usual heritage walks and boat trips, and on Thursday the first in a series of concerts of Russian music. Details below:

Sunday 26th February
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Monday 27th February
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Tuesday 28th February
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Wednesday 1st March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
18.15 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Thursday 2nd March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
16.00 Mayflower Pier meeting
17.00 Focus group Primary School teachers
19.30 Mussorgsky and Rachmaninov: first of four monthly concerts in partnership with the Anglo Russian Culture Club

Friday 3rd March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Saturday 4th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
13.30 lunch at the Tunnel Club, Mayflower pub upper room

Director’s Diary: Tower Bridge

On Monday the Learning Group of Thames Estuary Partnership met at Tower Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in the world – and a Brunel bridge! How satisfying to be there looking through the glass floor of the walkway when the bascules were raised! I tweeted the picture. Original design by Horace Jones, but Henry Marc Brunel and John Wolfe Barry are responsible for the bascules and the Portland Stone. Below is from Derek Portman’s article, pub. (more…)

Director’s Diary: Think Deep for Half Term

Last week I attended an interesting and very well attended launch of Thinkdeep http://www.tduk.org Their mission: To inform and guide the general public, decision makers, politicians and professionals how the use of urban underground space can create better cities with socio-economic benefits for society. This is important work. (more…)

Director’s Diary: A View from the Bridge. Death. Spice. Life.

Standing on the stainless steel bridge (WhitbyBird) at the mouth of St Saviour’s Dock, I enjoy a spectacular view of Tower Bridge (Wolfe-Barry and Brunel). I am just upstream from the Museum and close to Bermondsey tube station, from where our river walks begin. These are permanent moorings, homes for the affluent, but behind me, when the tide is out and the mud is oozing, it is easy to imagine a different demographic. (more…)

Director’s Diary: Nutmeg for the Big Apple

St Valentine at the Tunnel of Love is Saturday 11th February but most of the tickets have gone. Next Midnight Apothecary is Saturday 18th March for St Patrick’s Day and the anniversary of the Thames Tunnel’s opening. This seems appropriate because there were Irish (and Cornish) miners working for Brunel. Visit our website for details… (more…)

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