Tower Hill Subway

Old entrance to the Thames Subway on Tower Hill.
View full size imageOld entrance to the Thames Subway on Tower Hill. © NMM
The Tower Hill Subway ran from Tower Hill to Vine Street in Bermondsey It started life as the first true underground railway in London. The engineers were Peter Barlow, who had worked on the Metropolitan Railway - the world's first underground line - and his assistant, the South African James Greathead.

Its construction was significant because Greathead developed a new tunnelling shield, smaller and far more efficient than Brunel's pioneering shield. Thanks to this, the tunnel was completed in only ten months, and at a fraction of the cost of Brunel's Thames Tunnel (which took 15 years to finish).

The Tower Hill Subway opened in August 1870 but the firm collapsed within months. It was far more successful after conversion into a pedestrian subway (costing a halfpenny to use), and over a million people used it each year until the opening of Tower Bridge in 1894 made it redundant. It closed in 1896. Since 1926, it has carried hydraulic tubes and water mains, and now also cable TV circuits.