Blue Plaques

BRUNEL, Sir Marc Isambard (1769-1849) & BRUNEL, Isambard Kingdom (1806-1859)

Plaque erected in 1954 by London County Council at 98 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, SW10 0DQ, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

All images © English Heritage


Civil Engineer


Engineering and Transport


SIR MARC ISAMBARD BRUNEL 1769-1849 and ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL 1806-1859 civil engineers lived here



Isambard Kingdom Brunel grew up under the tutelage of his father, Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, at 98 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. They spent 17 formative years in the house from 1807 until 1824, with both father and son going on to complete some of Britain’s most impressive feats of engineering.

A portrait painting of Marc Isambard Brunel in about
Marc Isambard Brunel in about 1812 © National Portrait Gallery, London


Sir Marc was born in France and settled in London in 1799 with his English wife, Sophia, née Kingdom. He is known above all for designing and building the first tunnel under the Thames, between Wapping and Rotherhithe, which is now part of the London Overground. This, the world’s first underwater tunnel through soft ground, was begun in 1825 and – despite many difficulties and disasters – was completed in 1843.

During his years at number 98, Marc Brunel formed a company to finance the job and ran a mill at Battersea. He also supervised the education of his son Isambard, who had learnt the rudiments of arithmetic and geometry by the age of four.

The Thames Tunnel
The Thames Tunnel was built by Marc Isambard Brunel with the help of his son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel © Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images


It was in this riverside house that Isambard spent his boyhood, served as assistant to his father and developed the skills that were to result in his greatest achievements: the construction of the Great Western Railway (from 1833), the design of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol (1836–64), and the construction of ocean-going steamships, the most important of which was the Great Eastern, launched in 1859.

The Brunels moved from Chelsea to Blackfriars in 1824 in order to be closer to the Thames Tunnel, which was to make heavy demands on their time for many years to come.

A black and white photograph of  Isambard Kingdom Brunel pictured in 1857
Isambard Kingdom Brunel pictured in 1857, when he was firmly established as Britain’s greatest engineer © National Portrait Gallery, London

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