Anniversary of the opening of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel

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It was on this day, August 4th, in 1902 that a new way of getting across the Thames, built by the London County Council, opened to the public. The new foot tunnel, which had taken about three years to build, connected Greenwich with Millwall on the other side of the river. The anniversary of the opening provides a good excuse for looking through the newspaper archives for reports from the time.

“There is not much to see in the tunnel itself,” wrote the Shields Daily Gazette. “It must be seen by the eye of the imagination through the lens of knowledge. While the Thames has rolled its flood overhead and the barges and the big ships have passed to and fro, men have been pushing forward the Greathead shield through the clay and sand that is below the river’s bed.”

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The total cost of the work on the “subaqueous roadway”, undertaken by Messrs J Cochrane and Sons, was £120,000. This report in the Coventry Herald and Free Press notes that the result of the opening is that “old Greenwich ferry, which has existed ‘time whereof the memory of man knoweth not to the contrary’ will be practically put out of use as far as foot passengers are concerned.”

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Although the tunnel was officially opened on August 4th, some people had paid 3d each to go in a few days earlier with the funds raised going to the Dreadnaught and Poplar Hospitals.

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Interesting to note that although commonly referred to now as the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, that was not a name used around at the time of its opening. It was referred to variously in news reports as the “Thames Tunnel”, the “Greenwich Tunnel” and even the “L.C.C tunnel for foot passengers”. One of the earliest references to it as the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is in this 1934 news report in the Times about an act of bravery by a policeman.

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For more on Greenwich history, why not consider joining the Greenwich Historical Society?

Greenwich.co.uk editor, interested in things on the river and tales from the archives.

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