Above: The domed entrance to the foot tunnel at the Greenwich end. There is an identical structure near Island Gardens.
There are plenty of ways for a pedestrian to cross the River Thames. As well as the many road bridges, which also have pavements for the use of pedestrians, a few of the railway bridges also have a pedestrian bridge incorporated into their design. There are also foot tunnels – one linking Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs and another one between Woolwich and North Woolwich.
A crossing point – in the form of a ferry – from Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs has existed since at least 1330 when there was a petition by the people of Woolwich for it to be suppressed. We also know that, in later times, there was a horse ferry at this point because it was used by Samuel Pepys in 1665. The horse ferry continued to be used until 1883.
The Watermen rowed passengers across the Thames at many crossing points and this was also one of them. In 1874 the Millwall Railway terminated at a station on the southern end of the Isle of Dogs and the Thames Steam Ferry Company was set up to ferry people from the station across the Thames to Greenwich.
In 1902 the Greenwich Foot Tunnel was constructed by the London County Council (LCC) and the ferry was no longer required. At either end – one at Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs and the other at Greenwich – a circular red-brick building with a domed glass roof was built, with steps leading down to the tunnel. Some opposition was met from the watermen who claimed that their lively-hoods would suffer. The engineer was Sir Alexander Binnie. It opened on the Bank Holiday of 4 August 1902. Electric lifts were installed in 1904, being attendant-operated for many years. They were upgraded in 1992 and again in 2012 and they can be operated by the public who use them.
Above: The repair made to the tunnel after the Second World War.
During the Second World War, a bomb that fell in the Thames and the tunnel was flooded. The tunnel was not repaired until after the War ended and a passenger ferry boat was once again in use, operated by Tommy Sargent – one of the Sargent Brothers. The repair is evident towards the northern end where the diameter is reduced.
The Grade II listed tunnel is still in use today, with electric lifts at each end. The cast-iron tunnel, which is 1217 feet (371 m) long, is open to the public free of charge. When the lifts are not in service access is still possible via staircases at each end. The tunnel is used by an average of 4,000 people each day.