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Happy Birthday to Sir Marc Isambard Brunel!

Born on the 25th of April 1769 in Hacqueville, Normandy, France, he fell in love with an English woman (Sophia Kingdom) and, after a number of adventures, came to live in England to be with her. Their son was the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Marc was an engineer at least equal in insight to his son, though of a different temperament.

On his birthday we commemorate one of his greatest achievements – the first tunnel under a navigable river anywhere in the world (still in daily use nearly 200 years later).

Sinking the Shaft


The sinking tower of Rotherhithe was one of the great sights of London in the 1820’s.  People flocked to see the world’s first Caisson sinking slowly into the soil next to the Thames. Marc Brunel had the brilliant idea that the best way to build below ground was to build above ground and sink it!

The shaft, 50 ft in diameter with brick walls 3 ft thick and 42 ft high took 3 months to build and sink. The remaining 20 ft was constructed by underpinning, a difficult and laborious business, not repeated for the second Wapping shaft.

A Plea

Marc and Isambard did so much for our world. Please donate here to help the Museum’s COVID-19 crisis appeal – we do not want to shut our doors for good, but this crisis has destroyed the revenue we rely on to maintain this historic site.

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