Secret London: What Britain’s capital is hiding underground
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Sometimes, in tourist cities, guides advise tourists to “go deeper into the city” to understand how versatile the place is and to see all its features. However, when it comes to London, the advice to “go deeper” may well be taken literally. The fact is that beneath the capital of Great Britain is a real second – underground – city.
The fact that the subway may be a separate attraction, perhaps, and no one is surprised. Just look at the subway in Moscow and Stockholm. The London Underground, on the other hand, is notable for its abandoned stations. Down Street, the British Museum, Aldwych and St. Mary’s are the most famous of the abandoned stations. But famous doesn’t mean the only ones. There are 49 (!) “ghost stations” under London, and from time to time the London Transport Office allows visitors to look into almost every one of them.
Kensal Green Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in all of England – its first burial dates back to 1833. The fact that part of the cemetery is under the ground, of course, is understandable and it will not surprise anyone. However, what distinguishes this cemetery from others is the presence of catacombs. Under the tombs is a real labyrinth of intricate tunnels, which, alas, is almost impossible for the average man to get into.
Up until 2003 the Underground Railroad Post Office, better known as Mail Rail, was still operating at full capacity. Small, driverless trains drove through deserted tunnels with mail instead of passengers. In its best days, the service could deliver 4 million letters a day, or more precisely in 22 working hours. The tracks are 37 kilometers long. The railroad is now maintained by a group of enthusiastic engineers and they also offer a 15-minute tour of the underground world of the post office.
Between London’s two parks, Crescent Park and Square Park, there is an underground tunnel that even has its own name, “Nursemaids’ Tunnel,” which can be translated as “Nurse’s Tunnel” or “Nanny’s Tunnel.” Around the middle of this tunnel are low arches that lead to the Metro tunnels. Most of the year it is impossible to get into this place, as both gardens are private property. You can only peek in once a year, during the Open Garden Squares weekend.
The other, perhaps much more famous tunnel is the Thames Tunnel. It is a unique structure built right under the river. The tunnel opened in 1843, and it was immediately declared the eighth wonder of the world – people from all over Europe came to see the unique structure, which was located under the turbulent waters of the great river.
In 1913 this tunnel had electricity and was connected to the general system of subway tunnels. Now it is part of the East London Line – the eastern branch.
Beneath London there is not one but several (!) hidden rivers. The most famous of these is the River Fleet, which runs under King’s Cross before flowing into the Thames. It used to be a huge, full-flowing river. But the more London grew, the shallower River Fleet became, and over time, it also began to be poured and dumped trash, so that by the end of the XIX century it became almost completely buried under a thick layer of earth and junk. At the same time, separate tunnels were dug for the river and its waters were routed through them. Interestingly, the noise of the hidden river can still be heard in parts of the city, such as Ray Street.
Clerkenwell Prison was built in the 17th century in the heart of the Clerkenwell neighborhood, only underground. During World War II it was used as a shelter, and afterwards it was forgotten for several decades. It was only in 1993 that the place found a new life when a museum was opened here, which operated for only 6 years. Now the prison is periodically opened to the public for an event or exhibition. Many of the visitors claim to feel a “otherworldly presence” here. However, no one has ever managed to capture ghosts on camera.
In the fifth century there was a Roman rule here, and it was the Romans around the year 43 who founded Londinium, which much later became the capital of Great Britain. Is it any wonder that under today’s modern metropolis you can still find the remains of structures of that very first settlement established almost 2,000 years ago. One of the most famous of these structures is the amphitheater for 7,000 spectators. Locals used to come here to watch animal fights and executions of prisoners. Today you can also get into this amphitheater, which is true, you can not get close to it. Admission is free.
In addition to the amphitheater, the ruins of the baths – the Roman Baths of Billingsgate – were also found under London. These ruins were discovered in 1848 and today you can see them during a 45-minute tour held on Sundays from March to November.
Churchill’s Military Headquarters.
In 1938 the military headquarters was set up underground in London and by the following year it was already bustling with activity. It remained in use throughout the war until Japan surrendered in the summer of 1945.
The headquarters consists of four main rooms – Churchill’s bedroom, which was also his office, a telephone room, a room with a map and a meeting room. In 1940, the headquarters was further fortified by placing a 1.5-meter layer of concrete on top. Now the place is turned into a museum.
A large variety of theatrical decor is stored right in the abandoned subway tunnels. This vault is located right under the current Waterloo station, so you can even hear the trains passing by. As a result, this place turned out to be so distinctive that over time various events began to be held here periodically.
Few people know that under the famous Tower Bridge there is a room, which sometimes manages to look at the ordinary residents of the capital, as well as tourists. This room was created exclusively for business purposes, but from time to time excursions and music concerts are held here.
The WC Wine & Charcuterie is certainly not the only place that is located underground, but you can hardly find another establishment that has used a former public toilet for a bar. According to customer reviews, they serve great meat and cheese from all over the UK and Europe, and the service is top-notch. The place is still open today.
You can read about how edible London was created in our article about Carl Warner.
London’s mysterious underground tunnels: where will they lead?
Guided tours are one of the calling cards of tourist cities. Thanks to them, every visitor has the opportunity to explore the history of the city, and personally see the versatility of the area. But when people talk about London, the recommendation to “go deeper” in many people is taken in the literal sense. After all, under the very center of Britain is placed a real secret city.
London’s mysterious underground tunnels: where will they lead?
The system consisting of tunnels, which was laid under a large number of British cities, has long attracted public attention. There are still heated discussions about the mysteries of its creation. Government agencies have tried in every way to avoid the subject until recently by keeping a low profile. A burning curiosity makes many tourists to descend into the underground grid to see with their own eyes a real miracle.
What underground tunnels are there in London?
London is an amazing city that has a lot to show its arriving visitors. The sights are striking in their elegance and subtle style. It harmoniously combines modern infrastructure and business centers with historical and cultural monuments.
In the capital of Great Britain there are many excursion programs providing visits to the most popular and beautiful places of the city. Lovers of mystery and riddles local suggest descending into the underground part of the city, because it hides a lot of fascinating and mysterious places:
Westbourne River, London, England, 2007 What underground tunnels are there in London?
Subway . This is a London landmark in its own right. It is known for its abandoned stations. Down Street, British Museum, Aldwych and St. Mary’s are very popular. The total number of such places is about 48. Periodically, the London Transport Authority agrees to let visitors look at them.
Cemetery and Catacombs .
Cemetery and Catacombs.
Kensal Green Cemetery is the oldest burial ground in England. The very first burials date back to 1833. The fact that a certain area of the cemetery is placed underground probably will not surprise anyone. But the main difference between this place is that there are real catacombs. Labyrinths, consisting of ornate tunnels, are placed under the very graves. Unfortunately, no ordinary tourist or visitor can get in here.
Post Office .
The underground Post Office is a unique facility in London. It worked until 2003. Small trains moved on the railroad without a driver and carried mail, not passengers, through the underground deserted tunnels. On its most productive days, the Post managed to deliver about 4 million items each day, to be exact, in just 22 hours, which falls during business hours.
The length of the railroad tracks is about 37 km. To date, its technical condition is maintained by local engineers-enthusiasts. They have prepared for tourists a small tour for 15 minutes, which will reveal the secrets of the underground mail.
“Nursemaids’ Tunnel” is the most popular name for the mysterious tunnels that stretch between the two park areas of Crescent and Square. It translates to “Nursemaids’ Tunnel.”
In the center of this underground branch you can see relatively small arches leading to the London Underground tunnels. It would be difficult to get here on your own since this underground “wonder” and parks are privately owned. However, every year on the day of the “Open Doors Gardens” everyone has the opportunity to visit the tunnels legally.
Another famous tunnel in the city is considered Thames. It is among the unique structures because it is built right under the water. Officially it was launched in 1843. At that time it was considered even the eighth wonder of the world.
The citizens of Europe flocked there to see with their own eyes the embodiment of daring engineering. After all, the tunnel runs under a rough and large river. In 1913 it was equipped with electricity and connected to the general metro tunnel system. Today it is a share of the eastern branch.
In fact, there are several rivers flowing under London. The River Fleet is one of the most popular rivers under King’s Cross. It flows into the Thames. A few centuries ago it was huge and full of water.
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However, the faster the city grew, the more insignificant the river became. After a while garbage began to be thrown into it. This led to the fact that by the end of the 19th century the waters of the river were covered with a thick layer of all kinds of dirt and filth. During this period a separate tunnel was made for the River Fleet, directing all the waters there. The noise of the rushing waters can still be heard in some parts of London.
What are the authorities silent about?
In 2017, an update from the Office of Registered Land and Property Rights was released. They stated that there are about 4 million kilometers of shared communication network in the underground part of London. A large number of tunnels were confidentially built by the Post Office, the British Telecom Corporation and the Ministry of Defense.
What are the authorities keeping quiet about?
The mysterious network of tunnels and rooms that were built during the Cold War has been a source of genuine interest to locals and tourists alike for decades. But until recently, the authorities of the country have not commented in any way, thus arousing great suspicion. A huge number of underground buildings belong to the Ministry of Defense, but no one officially recognized it.
One intriguing revelation was that the Postmaster General of the United Kingdom has access to his secret tunnel. It runs under No. 57 Whitehall Street, often called Government Street.
It was built during the Cold War. The main purpose: to protect the equipment and communication system in case an atomic bomb falls on the country. The exit from the underground bunker is located in the basement of the old War Ministry building. The facility is top secret, and W. Churchill himself once worked here.
In 2014, the Raffles hotel chain bought this government building from the authorities. The total area of the protected facility was 54,000 square meters. “The OWO” is the name of the most status hotel in the world, which will open in 2022. Even now it is already listed as a London landmark.