The Brunel Museum has been awarded a grant of £1.85m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for its Reinvented project, which will restore its existing Engine House and create a new Welcome Pavilion ahead of 200-year celebrations in 2025.
The museum, based in Southwark, celebrates the story of the Brunels and is located at the site of Marc Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, running from Rotherhithe to Wapping.
Last year planning permission was approved for the project, which includes a new gallery created inside its Engine House building. A new exhibition on the Brunels will incorporate augmented reality, and will be added to the gallery. An updated Welcome Pavilion will include accessible facilities, a shop and cafe.
A collection of 30 watercolours known as the Thames Tunnel Archive will also be on display for the first time. These were painted by the Brunels throughout the Thames Tunnel project, and later buried in a family album for almost 200 years. Acquired by the museum in 2017, the museum turned to crowdfunding in April 2022 for the purchase of a bespoke, archive-quality case to display for the watercolours.
Brunel Museum crowdfund to bring Isambard Kingdom Brunel illustrations out of storage
The museum said it also plans to go on tour to other local venues such as Surrey Quays and Millwall Football Club, and a paid trainee role will be created for a young person from a disadvantaged background and work experience will be organised through Lewisham Southwark College for young people with special needs.
Katherine McAlpine from the Brunel Museum said: “Having this new space means that we can engage more with everyone and involve them in what the next 200 years will look like for us.
“We’re thrilled to provide a traineeship and work experience and will also be working with primary school history and STEM learning programmes. We’re hoping by enabling more people to learn about the amazing story of the Brunels, we can inspire the next generation of engineers.”
Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, added: “We are delighted to support the Brunel Museum to help it transform its spaces and experience for future visitors – whether from the local schools, the wider community or further afield. Not only will it restore historic buildings, but it will also create an accessible space where people can come to discover the stories of one of the most important historic families to revolutionise our cities.”