Sunday, June 05, 2022

Woolwich Foot Tunnel


London The Unfinished City
The south entrance to the Woolwich foot tunnel.

Of the roughly 40 tunnels beneath the River Thames, the majority of which carry utilities, railway lines and motor vehicles, only three allow pedestrians to use them: The Greenwich foot tunnel, the Woolwich foot tunnel and the Rotherhithe tunnel, although the latter is not advisable, unless you want to look like a chimney sweep and breathe in noxious fumes.

Friday June 3, 2022

I finally managed to get myself to Woolwich, so that I could walk through the foot tunnel, leaving only the Rotherhithe Tunnel for me to walk through.

It was a beautiful morning as Keilyn and I made our way along the Thames Path from North Greenwich to Woolwich, taking in the sights and atmosphere of the four-day Jubilee weekend.

With lots of building work going on along the River Thames, at Woolwich, the entrance to the foot tunnel was difficult to locate, at first, being sited behind the Waterfront Leisure Centre.

Once we discovered the entrance, which is the oldest remaining building in the riverside area, we made our way down the 94 steps of the spiral staircase to the tunnel itself.

London The Unfinished City
The lift shaft in the south entrance.

Once we reached the tunnel we began the walk towards the north bank. There were few pedestrians using the tunnel, but there were plenty of cyclists, disobeying the rules by cycling through the tunnel. 

London The Unfinished City
Looking back towards the south entrance.

The difference in temperature in the tunnel, compared to the outside, was considerable and quite chilly. I don't remember such a difference in temperature whilst walking through the Greenwich foot tunnel. As we reached the centre the York flagstones gave way to a drainage grate before the flagstones continued.

London The Unfinished City
Drainage grates.

It wasn't long before we reached the north stairwell and began to climb the 126 steps to the surface and out into the glorious sunshine.

London The Unfinished City
Keilyn begins her ascent.

Unlike the south entrance the north entrance sits prominently alone and easy to find, situated in an open space with bus stops and the ferry terminal next door.

London The Unfinished City
The north entrance.

With our mission to traverse the Woolwich foot tunnel completed we headed off on the next part of journey of exploration.

Brief History

Designed by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, construction of the tunnel began in 1910, was completed in 1911 and opened in 1912. It allowed for 24 hour free crossing of the River Thames to the docks and shipyards.

London The Unfinished City
A ladder leading to the lift machinery.

Unlike the Greenwich foot tunnel this tunnel didn't bring and end to the ferry, which has been in operation, in one form or another, since 1308.

London The Unfinished City
The Woolwich foot tunnel.

  • The south entrance has 94 steps
  • The north entrance has 126 steps
  • The tunnel is 1,654 feet long
  • The tunnel is roughly 9 feet in diameter
  • The tunnel is roughly 10 feet below the river bed
  • Both entrances are Grade II Listed
  • Roughly 1,000 people use the tunnel daily
  • Cyclists are NOT permitted to cycle through the tunnel
  • The tunnel is NOT a public right of way, as the tunnel is private property.

London The Unfinished City
Keilyn in the north lift.

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