Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the city of London? Many people are unaware of the multitude of tunnels, government bunkers, crypts, burial grounds and shelters hidden away under the tarmac and cobbles of one of the most vibrant cities of the world.
The London Underground was opened over 150 years ago now. The construction of its tunnels unearthed burial mounds from the Black Death—modern day archaeologists are now uncovering the hidden tunnels and passages that were closed off from the public during its lifetime. Some of them have been rebirthed with a modern purpose like Aldwych, forgotten for years and now used as a set by film makers.
There are around 50 abandoned stations-turned-time capsules under London, including Brompton Road, Down Street, Hyde Park Corner, Mark Lane and British Museum. Modern visitors to these stations will find old advertising boards from the Second World War— items lost for an eternity while the rumblings of the modern world has passed by. This forgotten world, closed off from the public gaze and left to history, has been discovered by a new generation of nostalgia hunters wishing to host the grandest parties in the deepest of dungeons.
There are movements afoot to bring these forgotten relics into the modern world with plans to convert over twenty sites into museums and bars.
But what else lurks under the streets of London? There’s an old set of tunnels under the center of the city that was used to deliver the mail. With smaller trains than used on the main tube, these postal stations were identical to those used by passengers—but with the passing of time, they were closed and are now silent.
Further back in history, you will find the remains of the Victorian fascination with death—huge crypts built for the most morbid generation of English gentry. Many of these immense catacombs were built close to the church’s altar, and only the richest and most powerful people could afford such luxury. You can still tour some of the magnificent crypts and catacombs of London. If you are ever close to West Norwood—look for the catacombs and prepare for a creepy adventure.
Inching back towards the future, you may be interested to know about the secret government tunnels that run below Whitehall. These tunnels were constructed to allow government officials and staff to move between governmental departments during the Blitz. The system links 10 Downing Street to the Admiralty, the Defence Crisis Centre and the Westminster Tube Station.
Which leads us appropriately to the Air Raid Shelters constructed during the Second World War. Built deep below ground to withstand the Blitz, these shelters could hold over 5,000 people. The shelters were situated under Camden Town, Chancery Lane, Clapham North, Goodge Street, Clapham South, Stockwell, Belsize Park and Clapham Common.
Next time you are in London, you may want to think about the ground you are walking on. Just beneath your feet there may be relics from the past—living history and ghosts of the places time forgot.