In a city as big as London, there are bound to be some secrets lurking in the shadows. Truth be told, most buildings in the capital will have their own little secret to tell. And as you walk the streets, you will most certainly stumble on an odd shaped building which will leave you thinking…hmmm, what is that?!
In the Southeast corner of world famous Trafalgar Square, going mostly unnoticed by visitors, is what many people call the world’s smallest police station. Built in 1926, the purpose of the tiny police box was to keep an eye on the troublesome demonstrators that used to flock to marches in the square. It even had a direct phone line to Scotland Yard should demonstrations turn nasty! Apparently, it can contain two prisoners, but it mostly used as a storage closet for cleaners nowadays!
In 1869, a 1,340 foot circular tunnel was dug beneath the River Thames, between Tower Hill and Tooley Street, in order to house a narrow gauge railway. This railway would convey passengers across the river and was used by 20,000 passengers a week until Tower Bridge was opened in 1894. Nowadays, the tunnel carries communication cables, but a small brick tower still resides on Tower Hill as a memorial to the original crossing point.
Ever wondered what the small green, wooden shelters are which occupy some of our busy capitals streets? Well, they look like sheds to you and me, but at one time, they were a safe haven for a cabbie or two during bad weather. In 1874, the Cabman’s Shelter Fund was created to offer these tiny cafes for the weary cabbies of the Hansom horse drawn cabs which were natives to London streets. These days, just thirteen remain, and are still looked after by the charity which first established them.
Walking down Hyde Park Place, you could be forgiven for missing No. 10. It’s pretty small, at only a metre wide, or 3 feet 6 inches to be precise! It has been said that it was built to block a right of way through to St George’s graveyard, and hence deterring grave-robbers.
At the centre of Soho Square is a half timbered house, which looks as if it were built during the 1600’s, when the square was laid out. However, the structure was actually built in the 1920s to hide an electricity sub-station. According to local legend, the hut contains a secret tunnel that links to Buckingham Palace! But, contrary to its pretty appearance, the building now operates as a gardener’s storage hut!
Located in Giltspur Street, historical Knightsriders Street (named for the historical Smithfield jousting tournaments), there is a watch house overlooking the churchyard of St Sepulchre. It was built during the 17th Century as prevention for body-snatchers and grave-robbers. During that time, in response to the rise in medical research via autopsy and dissection, grave-robbing was ‘a la mode’, and as such, a network of graveyard watch houses were built to act as a deterrent.