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Thames Tunnel Snuff Box

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A fine, early 19th century snuff box, composition with a horn hinge, the lid with a printed view of the River Thames in cross-section showing the proposed first Thames Tunnel as if completed. To be seen within the tunnel bores are a carriage and pedestrians below a view of the river busy with shipping; Rotherhithe, marked distinctly by St. Anne's Church, and a further panorama of Rotherhithe and its warehousing runs across the view. The engraving originally published by Silvester & Co., 27 Strand London, circa 1830. 

3.75 inches x 2.5 inches x 1 inch

Finally opening to the public in 1843 descriptions of the day tell us that the tunnel was something of a shopping centre, attracting around 2 million visitors each year, rather than a route to traverse the river. Descriptions vary from one source to another. According to the American traveller, William Allen Drew, the transverse arches, leading from one bore to the other throughout the length of the tunnel were occupied as ‘fancy and toy shops in the richest manner with polished marble counters, tapestry linings gilded shelves, and mirrors that make everything appear double.’ ‘It is impossible to pass through without purchasing some curiosity. Most of the articles are labelled – "Bought in the Thames Tunnel" or "a present from the Thames Tunnel". Another American writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, writing just a few years later described the tunnel as with ‘little alcoves, (with) stalls or shops, kept principally by women, who, as you approach, are seen through the dusk offering for sale ... multifarious trumpery ...He tells of gloomily lighted corridors where people spend their entire lives, rarely seeing daylight. 

The Thames Tunnel was soon to be seen as the haunt of prostitutes and "tunnel thieves" who lurked under its arches and mugged passers-by.




Item Code: 4715

£ 750

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