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.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 1.12(d)|
About the Author
Stephen Smith works for Channel 4 news and writes regularly for the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS
Table of Contents
|Mine of Information: The Vertical City||1|
|Monster Soup: London's Lost Waters||27|
|Within the Stones: Roman London||61|
|The Canterbury Tolls: Anglo-Saxon London||83|
|Voyage to the Bottom of the See: Medieval London||101|
|The Love Games of Henry VIII: Tudor London||131|
|High Treason: The Gunpowder Plot||159|
|Lifting People: The Plague||175|
|Spoils: London's Treasures||201|
|Going Out with a Bang: Victorian London||231|
|Euston, We Have a Problem: London Underground||253|
|Poste Restante: London's Lost Railway||293|
|Bunker Mentality: Cold War London||309|
|Pool of London: The Essential City||341|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A series of unrelated, uninteresting anecdotes interspersed with a hotchpotch of historical facts and an unhealthy dose of sarcasm.There is far too-strong a focus on the author's various guides (who all seem to be caricatures of Hugh Grant) and no logical flow from one story to the next. Additionally, the descriptive text of each location is so generic (cold, dark and damp) that it's hard to form a mental picture of any location. At the very least the book would benefit from some colour photographs, but all you get are tiny black and white illustrations at the start of each chapter.While it contains the odd interesting tidbit, I'd read far more interesting and cohesive facts about subterranean London in half an hour of browsing through blogs.
Fascinating account of the various bits of underground London - from the night workers on the tube (who would be a patrolman working alone at night 'pacing out the deserted tunnels with his lamp and his walkie talkie and his large box-spanner' - not me). The subterranean diverted rivers and culverts of London - the walk under the Thames Barrier. Oh yes and the miles of tunnels that the MoD have, allegedly, sunk under the capital. Amazing.
A wealth of information here--there are many times where I felt (and methinks rightfully so) that I was being treated to some deeply-buried gems, secrets of which only a select few could know the true nature. Some chapters are as surprisingly naughty and funny as what Smith is unearthing for readers in a particular strata. One or two are extremely dry--an agonizingly detailed and technical chapter on a dam system is a violent break in pace and interest. It seemed a well-meaning tribute not to readers or the subject matter but to a guide who had done Smith a big favor in letting him tour a normally off-limits area, nevermind that it didn't turn out to be as worthwhile as rumored. The rumor-mongers are a community of London Underground enthusiasts and the chapter might have been dedicated to the purpose of appeasing/impressing them as well, a testy issue Smith does mention several times in the text (in more amusing chapters). Despite this major mistake and some minor detours of the blander kind, Underground London is a rich feast of an adventure, presenting wonderful stories and spaces and journeys in an entertaining, intimate manner studded with important historical moments and fabulous little anecdotes. I will definitely be revisiting this.
A bit above average. In one way, I didn't really enjoy his style, yet in another way, I pretty much didn't put it down. Not sure I'd want to read another of his books.
"On another day when I was deep below London, down where it's dark and cold and wet, I was puzzling over this unfathomable side of the city when a jellyfish went past my head like a think bubble."In underground London there are ex-miners digging utility tunnels, culverted rivers, miles of sewers, a Roman wall in an underground car park, an amphitheatre under the Guildhall, a mediaeval abbey under a supermarket, the wooden funeral effigies of kings and queens, a Tudor tennis court in the basement of the Cabinet Office, crypts, undercrofts and plague pits, wine merchants' cellars, safety deposit vaults and silver vaults under Chancery Lane, cemetery catacombs, London Underground tunnels and stations both working and abandoned, air raid shelters, Turkish baths, the Post Office's miniature railway and a short-lived pneumatic railway, secret government tunnels from the Cold War, the Cabinet War Rooms, service tunnels for the Thames barrier and the Thames Water ring main.This book is a mine of information on the city's history, and includes digressions to such surface activities as the beating of the bounds of All Hallows parish on Rogation Day and how to become a Freeman of the City of London, as well as a side-trip to an old radar station in Lincolnshire.