Northern portal and parapet to the Blackwall Tunnel


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Poplar High Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E14 0BB


Ordnance survey map of Northern portal and parapet to the Blackwall Tunnel
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2020. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1065070.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 27-Feb-2020 at 18:26:16.


Statutory Address:
Poplar High Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E14 0BB

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Tower Hamlets (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Northern portal and parapet to the Blackwall Tunnel. Built 1897 probably to designs of Alexander R Binnie, Engineer.

Reasons for Designation

The northern portal and parapet to the Blackwall Tunnel, built in 1897 probably to designs of Alexander R Binnie, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historical interest: * as the northern portal to the first vehicular tunnel built under the Thames.

Architectural interest: * for its striking use of pink polished granite and its commemorative inscription.


The original plan for a first practical vehicular road tunnel under the River Thames was undertaken by the Metropolitan Board of Works which obtained an Act in 1887. Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s plan was for three parallel tunnels, with separate tunnels for vehicles and pedestrians, and the work was to have been completed within seven years. However, the Metropolitan Board of Works was wound up on 21 March 1889, prior to the establishment of the London County Council on 1 April 1889, just as contracts for the work were about to be let. A new scheme was proposed following an inspection of the compressed air working used to hold back the outside water pressure at the Hudson River tunnel in New York and the St Clair tunnel in Canada. The new scheme, reduced to a single tunnel, was devised by the London County Council Chief Engineer, Alexander R Binnie (1839-1917) and submitted on 20 November 1890. The tender of S Pearson and Son (who were building the Hudson River tunnel), of £871,000, was accepted towards the end of 1891 and work began in 1892. The tunnel is 1,890m long with an outside diameter of the cast-iron lining of 8m. The Blackwall Tunnel was opened by the Prince of Wales on 22 May 1897.

By the 1930s the tunnel was becoming inadequate due to the volume of traffic and the London County Council obtained an Act in 1938 for a new tunnel sited to the east of the original one. However, the war intervened and construction works did not begin until 1958. The eastern tunnel opened in 1967 and is used for south-bound traffic with north-bound traffic using the original tunnel.

In 1999 the tunnel was supplemented by flood gates housed in a building over the carriageway at the entrance to the tunnel obscuring, but not altering, the portal.


Northern portal and parapet to the Blackwall Tunnel. Built 1897 probably to designs of Alexander R Binnie, Engineer.

MATERIALS: pinkish brown polished granite blocks.

DESCRIPTION: the portal consists of the round-arched tunnel opening with a parapet at the top separated by a roll moulding. The parapet, which fronts onto Poplar High Street, has a sloped and rounded coping and square end-piers, each with four semi-circular faces with inscribed decoration. The arch has moulded decoration. On north face of the parapet an incised inscription reads ‘THIS TUNNEL CONSTRUCTED BY THE LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL WAS OPENED BY/ HRH THE PRINCE OF WALES K.C. ON BEHALF OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA ON 22nd MAY 1897 IN THE 60th YEAR OF HER REIGN/ SIR ALEX R. BINNIE ENGINEER'.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the portal is adjoined to the south by the tunnel* itself, including steps* to a raised walkway* on the west side of the carriageway. It is also adjoined to the north by high retaining walls*, encased in concrete and faced with Portland stone in the 1950s, topped with modern metal safety barriers*. The parapet is adjoined at the eastern end by modern iron railings* and at the western end by a low concrete wall* connecting to a modern building* across the tunnel carriageway housing a drop-down flood gate. Those structures marked by an * are excluded from the listing.

* Pursuant to s1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Smith, D, Civil Engineering Heritage: London and the Thames Valley, (2001), 15-16
British History Online: Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs, ed. Hermione Hobhouse (London, 1994) - The Blackwall Tunnel , accessed 20 March 2018 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 09 Sep 2001
Reference: IOE01/04798/01
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Colin Carron. Source Historic England Archive
Archive image, may not represent current condition of site.
To view this image please use Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Edge.

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].