Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Anyone else see that article in Time Out last week about London’s secret museums and get really excited? Yeah – me too. So I thought I’d check one out last Saturday.

It was only when I got there that I realised that Time Out’s Peter Watts didn’t seem to have done quite as much research as he might…

I was particularly intrigued by North Woolwich Old Station Museum, which, whenever I’d passed it whilst queueing for the ferry, had been very definitely closed. So I looked up the web address given and it said it was open Saturdays 1-5pm. The website looked a bit old – but it is in Time Out this very week and they wouldn’t put somewhere in a current edition that had been closed for ages, would they?

Sadly, the answer is yes. Don’t bother trying to go to this little local gem, folks. It’s very shut – to the point where it’s a building site just outside. It’s a shame as, on a peer through the window, it looks brilliant – an original 1854 station at the end of what, according to the website, is hoped to be a tiny little heritage line at some point. I wish them luck – but in the absence of any information or an up to date website, I can’t see that it will be any time soon.
What it did do, though, was give me an excuse to walk through Woolwich Foot Tunnel, Greenwich Tunnel’s lesser-known friend, a couple of miles down river. To my great shame, I’d never been through it.

The first thing you notice is that it’s a hell of a lot longer than Greenwich’s version. It’s nearly a third of a mile long. And, frankly, it’s in better nick than at Greenwich – slightly dusty – but not as caked with dirt. Maybe that has something to do with it being 10 years younger (it ws opened in 1912),or maybe it doesn’t get as much traffic, given that the ferry’s just above it. Every so often barriers have been planted across it to dissuade cyclists (which don’t work) and, amazingly, there is mobile phone access – which delights some and drives everyone else nuts, given the echoes and the fact that anyone on a mobile phone in public seems to have to shout…

The entrance buildings are just as cute (if not cuter) than those at Greenwich, though the one on the south side is a challenge to find first time (follow the Thames Path, it’s round the back of the leisure centre.)

The excellent IanVisits tells me that both tunnels are just about to undergo a general spruce up. I asked the lift operator whether this meant losing the wooden panelling in the lifts. He seemed to think not as he told me they’re listed buildings. How odd is that – for somewhere to be a public highway AND a listed building. There can’t be many of them about…

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