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Underground London
     

Underground London

by Stephen Smith
 
What is visible to the naked eye has been exhaustively raked over; in UNDERGROUND LONDON, acclaimed travel writer Stephen Smith provides an alternative guide and history of the capital. It's a journey through the passages and tunnels of the city, the bunkers and tunnels, crypts and shadows. As well as being a contemporary tour of underground London, it's also an

Overview

What is visible to the naked eye has been exhaustively raked over; in UNDERGROUND LONDON, acclaimed travel writer Stephen Smith provides an alternative guide and history of the capital. It's a journey through the passages and tunnels of the city, the bunkers and tunnels, crypts and shadows. As well as being a contemporary tour of underground London, it's also an exploration through time: Queen Boudicca lies beneath Platform 10 at King's Cross (legend has it); Dick Turpin fled the Bow Street Runners along secret passages leading from the cellar of the Spaniards pub in North London; the remains of a pre-Christian Mithraic temple have been found near the Bank of England; on the platforms of the now defunct King William Street Underground, posters still warn that 'Careless talk costs lives'.
Stephen Smith uncovers the secrets of the city by walking through sewers, tunnels under such places as Hampton Court, ghost tube stations, and long lost rivers such as the Fleet and the Tyburn. This is 'alternative' history at its best.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
(Smith) offers an enjoyable guide to the subterranean parts of a great city...his sense of the enveloping mysterious is spot-on.—OBSERVER

Smith's cast of fluffers (Tube cleaners), flushers (sewermen) and toshers (scavengers) make engaging company—SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

Brilliant... so much more than just another city ramble.—MAIL ON SUNDAY

A notable portrait of London... By becoming a proper witness to the unseen, covert and little-known, [Smith] rescues reportage and makes of it a kind of poetry—Iain Sinclair, EVENING STANDARD

Kirkus Reviews
Highly entertaining tour of British civilization, viewed from below ground level. Smith (The Land of Miracles, 1998) traces British history via London's subterranean passages, tunnels, sewers, wartime bunkers and, of course, the celebrated Underground. His erudite and eccentric odyssey mixes well-documented history with rather fanciful lore. Admittedly, the lore is more fun, such as the notion that Queen Boudicca is entombed beneath Platform 10 at the King's Cross tube station. But much of the history is remarkably engaging because it is all too human: Henry VIII farcically shuttling lovers through his underground passages at Hampton Court; soggy gunpowder foiling poor Guy Fawkes's disastrous attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament; grumpy Samuel Pepys clomping into his cellar to discover it's flooded once again; underground air-raid shelters being turned into post-WWII housing for Jamaican immigrants, etc. Smith has a knack for finding the most interesting and entertaining people below street level, ranging from a legendary sewer worker who killed rats with a swat of his hardhat to a group of naive Lancashire teenagers unable to disguise their giddiness while riding the Underground for the first time. Occasionally, the below-ground treasures have a bizarre way of unexpectedly surfacing; the Nazi strikes of 1941, for example, unearthed the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to Mithras. Sometimes Smith is a bit too generous in sharing information, as with his in-depth descriptions of the woefully fetid conditions that forced Henry III to install a drainage system at Westminster Palace in the 1380s. The future of London is also very much below street level, with long-planned rail tunnelsfinally getting off the drawing board as a means of attracting the 2012 Olympic Games. Not unlike the city above it, underground London remains in constant flux. A treat for rabid Anglophiles with a taste for the offbeat and off-the-beaten-path.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780349115658
Publisher:
Little, Brown Book Group
Publication date:
02/28/2005
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
1,341,653
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 1.12(d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Smith works for Channel 4 news and writes regularly for the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS

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