|Home of the Morlocks...?|
Peter Ackroyd has written a slim volume on the subterranean history of London -- London Under (2011, www.amzn.com/B004KPM16M). All Londoners are aware of an astonishing second city of London that lies beneath our feet.
Descend below the surface and one will discover under London a shadow world filled with crypts, corpses, secret passages, transportation, treasure, bomb shelters, cellars, swimming pools and much more. Ackroyd writes, "Good and evil can be found sure by side; enchantment and terror mingle. If the underworld can be understood as a place of fear and danger, it can also be regarded as a place of safety."
|Commander K. and Nelson|
Crypt of St. Paul's, London
|London Comedy, 1988|
Indeed it is not. Ackroyd tells us that "The London Underground is an old system. Its pioneer and prime mover (Charles Pearson) was born in the eighteenth century...Jack the Ripper (1888) could have travelled on the Underground to Whitechapel."
|London Tube Map|
|London Underground / Slave Quarters?|
During the Blitz
|"They had no choice."|
|Commander K. in Churchill's bedroom|
Churchill War rooms, London
Even today cold war era bomb shelters and various secret military HQ's can be found beneath the streets of London.
|Napoleon III, Museo Napoleonico, Rome|
Emperor, Wine Champion, Refugee
Rich Londoners today are burrowing underground and adding subterranean square footage to their properties with garages, wine cellars, home theatres and even swimming pools. A Canadian media mogul, for example, is adding four floors below ground to his home in Knightsbridge (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2228782/David-Grahams-4-storey-Knightsbridge-mansion-entirely-underground.html).
Vast fortunes lie beneath our feet in London. Ackroyd writes, "It is estimated that 250 million ounces of gold are concealed beneath the ground. But no London cellar is more wonderful than the vaults of the Bank of England. They contain the second biggest hoard of gold bullion ion the planet. A network of tunnels, radiating out from the bank, run beneath the the City streets. Several thousand bars of 24 carat gold, each one weighing 28 pounds, are stored within them. They may be said to light up the bowels of the earth."
The SPDR Gold Trust (http://www.spdrgoldshares.com/usa/key-information/ ticker symbol GLD) has its physical gold -- an estimated 1,200 metric tons worth over $70 billion -- stored by HSBC in a secret London underground vault. Bob Pisani of CNBC recently took viewers on a fascinating tour (see video below) of this glittering part of secret subterranean London.
The presence of so much treasure below the ground may help to explain the phenomenon of "the mole man," William Lyttle, who spent forty years digging 60 foot long tunnels beneath his property in Hackney. "'Tunnelling', he said to journalists, 'is something that should be talked about without panicking.'" (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2176073/Run-home-mole-man-spent-40-years-digging-network-tunnels-underneath-sells-1-1million.html)
Peter Ackroyd's Notes from Underground London concludes that, "London is built upon darkness." Commander Kelly says, "An exploration of the darkness below London's surface can be most illuminating."
Special thanks to Dom Driano Jr. for the gift of Atkinson's book The Guns at Last Light.
You can now purchase Commander Kelly's