Duck Duck Book

45 – london under london
05.9.2007, 6:29 pm
Filed under: history & geography

London under London / Richard Trench and Ellis Hillman.
London : J. Murray, 1985.
[MCL call number: 942.1 T789L; one copy, no holds]

London is a very old city.  Romans founded Londinium just shy of two thousand years ago, and there has been something of a settlement ever since. Every period in the city’s history has seen efforts by the powerful, the wealthy, and the creative to build the city better and more interesting — and because there is only so much space in a city, sometimes that meant building underground.

Of course, everyone has heard of the London Underground — the system of subway trains — but if you stop to think for a moment, you can imagine a lot of other stuff under there too. Sewers, utility conduits, catacombs, access tunnels, subterranean waterways, secret government sub-basements, and so on. Trench and Hillman lead readers on an exploration of a wide variety of underground wonders, providing a goodly number of illuminating photographs, maps, and diagrams along the way. Of particular interest are chapters on subterranean London during World War II (pages 11-21), the city’s underground defenses (pages 193-203), and “Smothered Streams and Strangled Rivers” (pages 23-53).

The book’s main text is followed by a gazetteer (which gives readers helpful tips about how to visit the different underground sites profiled in the book) and a modest index.

* * *

London Under London‘s chapter on underground rivers may put some of you in mind of a book I discussed a few years ago, N. J. Barton’s The Lost Rivers of London (Phoenix House, 1962, and Historical Publications, 1992; reviewed in Duck Duck Book number 20) and then mentioned again in a review of Christopher Fowler’s The Water Room in Duck Duck Book number 44.


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