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The Tunnel Of Love Remembers Its Past

The Brunel Museum will mark LGBTQ+ history month with a series of videos revealing the role the Thames Tunnel played as a space where people, including gay and bisexual men could meet each other in the 1850s.

Completed in 1843, the Thames Tunnel was the first tunnel underwater anywhere in the world. Popular with tourists when it first opened to the public, by the mid 1850s the tunnel was known for crime and poverty. Due to its underground nature and perceived den of sin, the tunnel earned the nickname ‘Hades Hotel’. It gathered a reputation for attracting sex workers and their clients.

“Social attitudes and prejudices against same sex relationships have historically pushed the queer community into the shadows and into sex work. Like many places in London, the Thames Tunnel played a role in that history. For LGBTQ+ history month, we thought it was important as an inclusive museum to bring those stories out of the shadows and share them” said Katherine McAlpine, Director of the Brunel Museum.

The films have been researched and created by historians Sacha Coward and Sheldon Goodman, two experienced tour guides who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and have run tours for museums, cemeteries and heritage sites around the country.

‘Queer history doesn’t always shout, often it whispers and if you listen carefully you can hear these whispers in the Thames Tunnel. Because LGBTQ+ people in the past were vilified, their lives were often hidden by themselves or others. So when we tell their stories we have to follow breadcrumb trails.” said Sheldon and Sacha. “We want to explore how spaces like the Thames Tunnel could be used by people who today might very well have identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We know that sex workers of all gender and sexual identities operated across London, and we know the tunnel was a popular place for them to work.”

The three films will be released over three consecutive days in February, from Tuesday 23 February: https://www.thebrunelmuseum.com

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