London’s Secret Passage Ways
Subterranean London practically conceals a passageway per person; escaping from a murder-scene has never been so easy.
Secret passageways have been cultural saviours. Where would the humble murder-mystery be without a good bout of hidden London tunnels? Or any family game of Cluedo? It’s safe to say that a good 40% of all television shows would be defunct without them, and most writers would have to turn to impossible plot devices to explain the whereabouts and escapes of their characters (could you imagine? ). Of course, all myths and pastiches come from somewhere, and London is riddled with secret passageways with equally intriguing back stories to match.
Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street
It is fitting that one of the principle lodges for this infamous group has a labyrinth of secret passageways beneath its floors, being one of the more infamous London secrets. This was accidentally found out when a group of fashion editors got lost between London Fashion Week shows (Freemasons’ Hall is one of the main runways locations), and ended up wondering around befuddled in the no access area. Eventually they were found an escorted out, though hopefully not before they managed to swipe some interesting documents, or at least a flamboyant gown. Remember, it’s not a ‘secret society’ it’s a society ‘that happens to have secrets’.
The Camden Catacombs runs beneath Camden Market, and contraire to their title of ‘catacombs’ they never saw the storage of any dead bodies. They were actually constructed in the 19th century as stables for horses and pit ponies working on the railways and were forgotten about after the project was completed. Certainly one of the more spacious hidden streets under London, today they can be accessed by more determined subterranean explorers by kayaking up Camden Lock.
The affectionately dubbed ‘Mail Rail’ was a private railway line constructed by the Post Office between their head sorting offices in Paddington and Whitechapel. It was active from 1927 to 2003, though this most practical tunnel London bears has plans re-open to the public soon.
Berry Bros & Rudd, 3 St. James Street
What may initially appears to be an up-market wine merchant holds within it a scandalous hidden London secret. The 17th century building has a secret tunnel that ran to St. James’s Palace. The reason why is that the building used to be a high-class brothel and the merry monarch Charles II wanted discreet direct access to his favourite ladies of the night.
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Perhaps the most cultured of the tunnels in London; a thesp escape runs from the Theatre Royal to the Nell of Old Drury just down the road. Once again, this was the doing of vagabond Charles II in order to visit his mistress Nell Gwynn without being noticed. Today you can orchestrate your own moral un-doings at the pub erected in her memory.
Long-persisting rumours speculate upon the existence of underground passages linking Buckingham Palace to government buildings for defence. Almost certainly true, but no comment on whether Elizabeth II’s tunnels run to Old Drury or not.