What is it?
The Brunel Museum is a museum about the construction of the Thames Tunnel and other achievements by famous engineering father and son duo Marc and Isambard Brunel. Find it in Southwark, near the child-friendly Museum of London Docklands. Rotherhithe is the closest overground station.
9 – 12
£ – it’s only £3 to enter for adults and children under 16 go free.
What’s on offer
The museum calls Sir Marc Brunel’s Engine House it’s home. An appropriate setting, as the Engine House was used to house the steam engines that drove the pumps to keep the Thames Tunnel dry until the 1990’s. The Brunel Museum’s permanent exhibition tells the story of the construction and history of the Thames Tunnel, which includes a video presentation, artefacts from the tunnel, display panels and models.
You can visit the Grand Entrance Hall of Rotherhithe through one of the museum’s regular tours (please visit the website for full details) and explore the unusual and interesting décor in the surrounding gardens, which overlooks the river. Here, you can learn about the bridges created Marc’s son Isambard Brunel – the Maidenhead Bridge, the Hungerford Suspension bridge and the Royal Albert Bridge.
You’ve also got the option of taking a boat from the Brunel Museum to the Great Eastern Launch Site, where Brunel worked on his last project, what was once the biggest ship in the world for over fifty years. The museum organizes a weekly tour on Thursdays and Saturday mornings, along with countless seasonal events including creative writing workshops, musical events and hopscotch play sessions. They’ve got activity sheets for children on their website, which may be good to print out and bring along with you.
There’s space within the museum to leave coats and bags (at your own risk) and a buggy parking facility. The museum also has a café/art gallery and bookshop.
It’s small, and therefore easy to navigate. The staff are friendly and accommodating. Don’t forget – the building the museum is in is a lot of the history, so remember to take a good look around and appreciate it. If you’re little ones are night owls, visiting in the early evening and stopping for a cocktail is very pleasant.
Though the reading aspect of the exhibit is plentiful and interesting, some TripAdvisor users noted that they enjoyed the video presentation. The Grand Entrance Hall of the tunnel, available with the museum’s tour, is also worth a visit.
If you’re interested in Victorian history or someone in the family has a background in engineering then this place is for you.
What to watch out for
– £3 is very cheap for a London attraction and while the original Engine House is beautiful, bear in mind that you get what you pay for in terms of the amount of content available. It’s not a huge, interactive museum like the Science Museum.
– There’s very little here to keep babies or toddlers entertained, especially as you don’t see the inside of the actual tunnel and there’s a lot of reading.
– It might be too specialist for some children.
– This museum is the last stop on the London Walks Brunel tour. This could be useful if you want to make a day of it, see the sights from Bermondsey tube station (which isn’t far) and have older children who don’t mind a bit of walking.
– With just a visit to the museum planned, don’t expect to spend longer than an hour here. Consider doubling up your visit with a trip to the London Bridge Experience & London Tombs, the Geffrye Museum or the V&A Museum of Childhood.
What the owners say
“A permanent exhibition in The Engine House tells the dramatic story of the construction and subsequent history of the Thames Tunnel, built by Sir Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The exhibition includes display panels, models of the tunnel under construction, original artefacts from the tunnel and a video presentation.”