Fr Michael Blesses Statue of St Barbara 60 Metres Underground!

On Monday 9 February our Sub-Dean Canon Michael Rawson blessed a statue almost 200ft underground to protect those working on a new 15 mile super sewer through London

Canon Michael Rawson was delighted to join workers from the Thames Tideway Tunnel project for the ceremony ahead of the next stage of construction.

He was taken 60m underneath the River Thames, near Chambers Wharf in Bermondsey, to bless a statue of Saint Barbara, who is the patron saint of miners and tunnellers.

It is tradition to place a statue of the saint near tunnel entrances to protect those working underground, a spokesman for the Thames Tideway Tunnel project said.

The overall project aims to prevent tens of millions of tonnes of raw sewage polluting the River Thames every year and is expected to be completed by 2024.

Once complete, it will run from Acton in the west to Abbey Mills in east London where it will join up with the Lee Tunnel which will take all the sewage to be treated.

Work began on the super sewer in 2016 and the project is expected to cost £3.8 billion, Tideway said.

Canon Michael blessed the workforce and machinery for the latest phase of the sewer's construction which took place at the bottom of the shaft which has been constructed on a man-made island in the River Thames.

The new 3.4mile tunnel section will stretch from Chambers Wharf to Abbey Mills pumping station.

About four other statues have been placed at previous launch sites for each phase of the sewer's construction.

Work is under way at 23 sites across the capital with four tunnel boring machines being used to burrow deep beneath the surface.

The tunnel will go from 30m deep in the west to 50 or 60m deep in the east and will mainly follow the course of the River Thames.

So far, more than 6km of tunnel has been built, with four TBMs in the ground, while 1.6 million tonnes of rubble and debris have been removed by river, saving 100,000 lorry trips.

Saint Barbara was an early Christian saint and is thought to have lived in what is now Turkey in the 3rd century.  She is regarded as the patron saint of miners and tunnelers.  Her Saint's Day is 4 December and this is celebrated on may tunneling projects.

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Images copyright Steve Parsons PA