Autograph letter signed ("M. I. Brunel") to "My dear Benjamin" [Sir Benjamin Hawes, his son-in-law and a director of the Thames Tunnel Company], 4 pages, 8vo on 2 integral leaves, Duke Street, 23rd December 1841.
The distraught engineer has been unable to find Isambard at home and instead writes to his son-in-law of his worries over the existing design for the tunnel stairs and brick structure; these make him unable to support either the Board or the present contract. Among the improvements sought are not only seats for pedestrians but even a lift "for the use of porters."
"I have been many times disappointed in my calls upon Isambard; and, last evening, I came here again and said that I should be here this morning, but again unable to see him, he being gone to Paddington. I have no doubt it is on business; but at this moment it is of much importance to us and to myself that I should see him -- For in fact my dear Benjamin, I cannot make myself a party to some of the principal articles of the contract -- The Stairs. The mode of tying the wall of the new structure and the same for the Roof of the said structure. The stairs in particular are very dangerous for those coming down and present no places of rest for those going up -- I am convinced that but few will ever again expose themselves to such exertions .... when once curiosity will have been gratified, the Watermen will, I have no doubt, find their fares improving, most particularly if they have Boats instead of Werries as some have ....
"The present stairs, I mean those of the contract, are dangerous; but I was told that I would make no representation against any part at present, viz while the papers were before the contractors -- and now I cannot make any representation because I cannot possibly be in a condition to do so by Wednesday next. Accomodation is an indispensable condition. Attraction must not however be disregarded. I do declare that I cannot and will not be a party to the execution of the present plan of stairs, and as to the mode of tying the brick structure, Isambard will, I have no doubt, see the necessity of doing it in a safer way, and the roof likewise. One hundred pounds suitably and judiciously raised will be most beneficial -- and if saved will raise many detractors of the skeam. Your father speaks frequently of the necessity of having a Lifting accomodation for the use of porters and any others; but the present stairs cut off the ways of effecting it ----
"If the Board cannot hear me upon these questions, it is useless for me to present myself at the next meeting because my views differ materially from those of the majority ---- The tunnel will I have no doubt be an attraction to many; but when it is said; but you must go up one hundred steps, and then not even a seat of accomodation for rest and if it rains you must even clear the way ... I have said enough to you; and must now go back to Rotherhithe without having seen Isambard."