Take a stroll through the streets of London and look around you. Look up, look down, and you’ll discover a story or a piece of history. Throughout the city there are curious and quirky sights that most people just walk right by. Here are seven secret sights to spot next time you’re in town:
1. ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE
Wander along Leinster Gardens near Paddington and you’ll see a row of beautiful unspoilt houses. But take a closer look at numbers 23-24. Can you spot something? In fact, the houses don’t exist, only the facades. Way back when Tube trains were powered by steam, the locomotives literally needed a space to let off steam and this large vent hole was the spot for just that, on the Paddington to Bayswater line.
2. FARTING LANE
Without being crude, this is the colloquial name given to Carting Lane, a road and alleyway that runs alongside the Savoy Hotel and Theatre. It’s because the lane contains the only remaining sewer gas lamp. This remarkable Victorian invention used the dangerous gasses – namely methane – to partly power the street light at the same time as ridding the sewer below of smells and potentially explosive gas. Besides a rather unfortunate incident with a delivery truck, the lamp has been burning pretty much ever since it was installed.
3. UNDER THE THAMES
No we’re not talking bodies and buried treasure, but tunnels. Yes, there are plenty of Tube tunnels that pass under the river but did you know that there’s one you can actually walk through? The beautiful Victorian Greenwich Foot Tunnel, links the Docklands on the north side of the river to Greenwich on the south. Finished in 1902, it’s classed as a public highway and therefore must be open for access 24 hours a day.
4. DOWNING STREET…ALMOST
If you are exploring the area around the Strand, pop down Adam Street and stop outside number 10. It bears a striking resemblance to the Prime Minister’s den in Downing Street and has been used many times in film and tv as a substitute for the famous door of power.
5. ONE FOR YOUR DIARY
Taking of filming locations, what about Borough Market. This foodie haven near London Bridge is the go-to place for tasting some of the capitals street food and artisanal cuisine but it’s also the home of one Bridget Jones. Under the railway line you’ll find The Globe pub whose top floor is the fictional address of Ms Jones. Get a snap by the famous door before heading inside for a pint and seeing what’s really on the other side.
6. THE GREATEST NUMBER FOR THE GREATEST GOOD
Okay, so this one is a little bit creepy but definitely noteworthy. Now, Leandi and I both studied ethics at school and learnt all about Jeremy Bentham, the father of modern utilitarianism. Well, I remember our teacher, Mrs Powell, telling us about his body being preserved after his death, and then a few years ago I popped along to Univeristy College London to see it for myself where it is on display. It’s pretty much all there apart from his original head, which is stored in a protected environment.
7. LET’S ALL GO DOWN THE STRAND
Well this one might not be such a secret as it’s in plain sight, but it’s one that fascinates me. There’s something about disused buildings that’s a bit mysterious and the Strand Tube station is one of those. Located on the corner of the Strand and Surrey Street, you can see the original facades of this station that was officially closed in 1994, but has been used for film and tv for decades. Currently undergoing a little refurbishment work, visitors will hopefully be able to see inside on guided tours soon.
Do you know any secret London sights we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @whistle_stops.