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Paper peepshow - River Thames and Tunnel

River Thames and Tunnel

  • Object:

    Paper peepshow

  • Date:

    ca. 1843 (published)

  • Credit Line:

    Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from the collections of Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016.

  • Museum number:

    Gestetner 238

  • Gallery location:

    National Art Library

This peepshow of the Thames Tunnel is a rare British example enclosed in a wooden box, which means that it can be viewed horizontally, on a table-top. The Thames Tunnel was one of the most popular subjects for British paper peepshows, which were produced throughout the period of its construction and beyond. The Tunnel’s construction started in 1825, and after various flood accidents and a long period of suspension of work between 1828 and 1835, the Tunnel finally opened to the public on 25 March 1843. This example depicts the visit of queen Victoria to the Tunnel on 26 July 1843. It is a ‘double-decker’ peepshow: through the upper peep-hole, one can see a flurry of boats on the Thames with the queen’s ceremonial barge approaching in the distance, while the lower peep reveals a view of the inside of the tunnel.

This peepshow is beautifully executed and would have been much more expensive than contemporary peepshows produced by Bondy Azulay and/or T. C. Brandon. The front-face does not make use of stereotypical representations of the Thames Tunnel or of Queen Victoria’s visit, and the colouring is carefully applied. Ralph Hyde pointed out that the style of the lettering and figures on the front-face resembled that of Arthur and Archibald Park, whose firm produced the juvenile drama, The Miller and his Men.

Physical description

Accordion-style two-level paper peepshow of the Thames Tunnel and the River Thames.

3 cut-out panels. 2 peep-holes. Hand-coloured lithograph. Built into a wooden box. Expands to approximately 79cm.

Front-face (lid of the box): A view of shipping on the Thames in the upper part. In the lower part, a sailor holding the Union Jack on the left, and a waterman with an oar on the right. Elaborate ornament decorating the two sides and the middle. The title at top and in the middle. The peep-holes consist of two circular openings (top and bottom) in the centre.

Panels 1 – 3: pedestrians in the archways of the Tunnel at the bottom, and boats with spectators on the Thames at the top. A frame with ornaments on either side.

Back panel: pedestrians in the archways of the Tunnel at the bottom, boats and a ceremonial barge on the river at the top. Spectators on the quay, which is decorated with flags and bunting. A frame with ornaments on either side. The back panel is glued to the bottom of the box.


ca. 1843 (published)


Height: 18 cm, Width: 23.5 cm, Depth: 79 cm fully extended

Object history note

Part of the Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection, collected over 30 years and given to the V&A Museum through the government's Cultural Gift Scheme in 2016.

Descriptive line

River Thames and Tunnel, ca. 1843

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

R. Hyde, Paper Peepshows. The Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection (Woodbridge: The Antique Collectors' Club, 2015), cat. 238.






National Art Library; Optical toys; Paper Peepshow; Thames Tunnel


National Art Library

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