Every inhabitant of London and its satellites knows of the Underground (Tube) network; most have travelled on the system at least once in their lives. However, fewer are aware of the fascinating, multi-faceted story of the self-contained world constructed beneath London since the mid-Victorian era. This does not only include London Underground but also the forgotten Post Office railway, tunnels for underground rivers and waterways, foot tunnels, vast complexes of sewers and politicians’ bunkers – an entire subterranean world where large numbers of people have spent much of their lives.
Following the often pioneering development of these structures, London’s Labyrinth explores the visionary, groundbreaking and sometimes dark history of the world beneath London’s streets. Following Joseph Bazalgette’s construction of one of the first modern sewerage systems during the Victorian age, all manner of fascinating stories emerge. London’s Labyrinth also exposes the sinister side of the subterranean city in Victorian times: from the shocking bomb attacks on the Metropolitan and District Lines in 1883 to the sad tale of unrequited love at Charing Cross, where a young man shot the object of his affections before turning the gun on himself. By its very nature, ‘underworld’ London has also been a popular resort of thieves and the book relates outrageous tales of robberies such as that of the unfortunate William Frost, shot during a mugging on the Metropolitan Line in 1910, and the severely injured robbery victim found wandering along the line between Gower Street and King’s Cross in 1888. It has also witnessed some of the worst tragedies in London’s history: from the Moorgate tube disaster and the King’s Cross fire to mass deaths in underground World War 2 shelters and modern-day terrorist attacks. Such tragic tales are interspersed with the lighter but no less fascinating stories of London’s numerous disused railways, its ‘ghost stations’, tunnels and bunkers.
In the 21st century underground London remains an essential part of the capital’s life, and this book will enrich any journey (real or imaginary) through the city’s subterranean labyrinth, illuminating the lives of all who live in, work in or simply pass through London.