A popular toy of Victorian times was the peepshow, and a paper peepshow of the Thame Tunnel is up for sale next week.

(c) Tennants auction house

In the years leading up to the completion of the tunnel, a number of firms sold concertina paper peepshows that gave the viewer a three-dimensional view into what the tunnel would look like when it was completed. As a marvel of engineering, as the world’s first tunnel under a river, it attracted a lot of attention during its construction, and these paper cut-out models were very popular.

Most of the paper peepshows were made before the tunnel opened, and one up for sale next week clearly shows that its pre-opening date, as it includes horse and carriages in the tunnel.

(c) Tennants auction house

When Thames Tunnel opened in 1843 though, it was actually a bit of a failure, as there wasn’t enough money to build the huge ramps to get road vehicles down to the tunnel, so it opened as a pedestrian tunnel.

There were never any horse and carriages carrying fine London gentlemen through the tunnel. Eventually, the pedestrian tunnel was bought by the railways in 1865 and reopened in 1869 to carry rail freight between Wapping docks and south London.

The paper peepshow is undated and has an estimate of £200-£300 when it’s put up for sale by Tennants auction house.

The Brunel Museum already owns one, and you can see it on display in their main building.

(c) Tennants auction house


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  1. Long Branch Mike says:

    Love this Victorian ingenuity!

  2. MilesT says:

    LT museum should commission replicas and also a crossrail version…maybe featuring Bond Street

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