Most London obsessives I know have a “to visit” list which is rather like a “to be read” book pile; it never gets any shorter. When I saw a volunteer spot at one such place on my list as part of the Open House weekend I jumped at the chance.
The Brunel Museum is in Rotherhithe on the site of the ThamesTunnel where Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel worked on their only joint project, the first tunnel underneath a river anywhere in the world.
My job was to marshal people at the entrance to the descent to the Grand Entrance Hall where around 145 years ago millions of visitors had descended to see what was then known as The Eighth Wonder of the World.
As people waited for the next tour to begin I found that my knowledge gleaned from studying the Thames Tunnel in 2009 as part of the Westminster Guiding course proved to be extremely useful together with a book entitled “The Brunels’ Tunnel” which has been produced and is sold by the Museum.
The Grand Entrance Hall is only open occasionally but the fascinating Museum is open seven days a week, 10 until 5 and must be one of the cheapest places to visit in London with the entrance priced at £2, £1 for concessions and free to under 16s. If you’re local it is definitely worth seeking out as it has a real community feel to it with regular yoga, creative writing and knitting evenings. There is also a tiny café with a selection of home-made cakes.
I didn’t fancy a cake for lunch so ventured just around the corner to another gem (and entry on my list), Rotherhithe Picture Research Library and Sands Film Studios. Because of a pre-booked boat trip from Blackfriars later in the afternoon I didn’t have time to do the tour but did visit their café which must be one of the cheapest in London – nothing is priced but they suggest a donation of £2.50. It was hard to believe I was less than 1.5 miles from Tower Bridge.
Continuing with the community feel of the area every Tuesday at 9pm they show films from around the world in their tiny cinema. Only 30 people can be accommodated so you do need to book. Further details are on the website and on 10/11 December this year they are showing the 1987 Sands Films’ production of Little Dorrit in two parts over two days – it is 6 hours long. To book email LittleDorrit@sandsfilms.co.uk; I definitely need to return.
Leaving the studios I discovered another amazing place to visit. Art at the Mills is an annual event coinciding with Open House and takes place in a former flour mill which has now been converted into residential accommodation.