Terrace and Gardens
On the south side, large double doors open onto a cobbled drive next to an enclosed lawn and sheltered garden, stocked with shrubs and trees chosen by Brunel for his château in Watcombe, Devon.
Next to a Great Eastern grinding wheel, a picnic table, shaped like a ship, seats 20 people. The garden backs onto the 1825 Marc Brunel shaft, on the side of which a wood and ceramic bas-relief design shows how the tunnel was built. Concrete fishes by Liz Leyh ring the shaft.
On top of the shaft, (which later became the Thames Tunnel’s Grand Entrance Hall) a new compass garden has been laid out with a giant sundial. Below a staircase descends into the huge underground chamber where Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s illustrious career began.
To the north, a brick-paved square overlooking the river serves as the café’s shady terrace. Benches shaped like Brunel bridges sit beneath shady false acacia trees, one of which is held together by huge stainless steel bolts and is popularly known as the Frankenstein tree. This side of the shaft is covered with a mural drawn from a painting by Marc Brunel, acquired with help from The Art Fund.
The three benches in the square are in the form of the following great Isambard Kingdom Brunel Bridges:
This is one of the original bridges along the Great Western Railway line and was completed in 1838 across the river Thames. At the time of building its two brick arches were the longest and flattest in the world.
Hungerford Suspension Bridge
Where Charing Cross railway station is now in central London there used to be Hungerford Market. The market’s owners decided to build a crossing to bring people into the market and Brunel designed a spectacular suspension bridge .When the market was sold for redevelopment as Charing Cross railway station, the bridge was knocked down but the brick piers were retained as part of the current railway bridge. The suspension chains were eventually reused on the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol.
Royal Albert Bridge
An almost unique bridge. It is a self-contained suspension bridge that requires no anchor chains to stop the main towers collapsing on each other. Instead the large tube at high level between the towers keeps them apart so providing its structural integrity.