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Thames Tunnel Snuff Box.

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A Papier-mâché snuff box, the horn-hinged lid bearing a hand coloured printed scene of the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe. The cross section image of the two bores is shown beneath the Thames waterline with a carriage with attendant entering and leaving. Above are several ships and other vessels typical of the craft working the River Thames at the beginning of the Victorian era. Saint Mary’s Church is shown to the far right, at the end of a waterfront crowded with dockside warehouses. A fine example in good condition albeit with a small bruise resulting in a line of lost surface, top right hand corner.  

3 3/4 in x 2 1/2 in x 7/8 in 

Finally opening to the public in 1843 descriptions of the day tell us that the tunnel was something of a shopping centre, attracting some 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". It is likely that this snuff box is one such souvenir.

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: 4419

£ 550

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