25 August 2016 | 20 °C

Secret | By: M@

The Bits Of St Paul's Cathedral You Won't Get To See

The Bits Of St Paul's Cathedral You Won't Get To See
Out on the southern ledges.
Out on the southern ledges.
"All around the cathedral, the saints and apostles, look down where she sells her wares": Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins. Here's one such 'saint and apostle', John the Baptist.
"All around the cathedral, the saints and apostles, look down where she sells her wares": Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins. Here's one such 'saint and apostle', John the Baptist.
The roof still retains fire wardens' posts from the Second World War. The brave souls who manned these stations saved the cathedral from probable destruction.
The roof still retains fire wardens' posts from the Second World War. The brave souls who manned these stations saved the cathedral from probable destruction.
Looking east towards the City of London. The tallest building, the 'Cheesegrater' is angled that way to protect views of the cathedral.
Looking east towards the City of London. The tallest building, the 'Cheesegrater' is angled that way to protect views of the cathedral.
A view from a northern section of roof towards the City.
A view from a northern section of roof towards the City.
Looking up towards the tower.
Looking up towards the tower.
High classical flourishes that few ever get to see.
High classical flourishes that few ever get to see.
We're not sure what these hidden cavity spaces are called, but they're big, and offer unique views of the dome. Interesting, also, to note the flying buttresses, which were deemed 'too gothic' to be publicly visible.
We're not sure what these hidden cavity spaces are called, but they're big, and offer unique views of the dome. Interesting, also, to note the flying buttresses, which were deemed 'too gothic' to be publicly visible.
Looking west from the apex of the roof.
Looking west from the apex of the roof.
The interior of the cathedral is a maze of narrow passages and rooms.
The interior of the cathedral is a maze of narrow passages and rooms.
Ye olde graffiti, presumably by one of the original stone masons.
Ye olde graffiti, presumably by one of the original stone masons.
At least two rooms contain remains from the Medieval cathedral, destroyed in 1666. Here we see fragments from Inigo Jones's classical reworking of the west front, from the 1630s.
At least two rooms contain remains from the Medieval cathedral, destroyed in 1666. Here we see fragments from Inigo Jones's classical reworking of the west front, from the 1630s.
The roof space above the cathedral's Quire. The floor here is only a few inches thick, and we were mindful of the long drop beneath.
The roof space above the cathedral's Quire. The floor here is only a few inches thick, and we were mindful of the long drop beneath.
The roof space contains numerous peep holes. Difficult to photograph, the action of looking down to the quire floor from so high up was slightly unnerving. You can just make out a visitor looking through the book of remembrance for American war dead.
The roof space contains numerous peep holes. Difficult to photograph, the action of looking down to the quire floor from so high up was slightly unnerving. You can just make out a visitor looking through the book of remembrance for American war dead.
Looking down on the central crossing beneath the dome.
Looking down on the central crossing beneath the dome.
Heading into the clock room. The machinery controls the three-sided clock in the south-west tower.
Heading into the clock room. The machinery controls the three-sided clock in the south-west tower.
Be warned...no foolish scribbling. One of many signs, plans, maps and models dotted throughout the cathedrals' rooms.
Be warned...no foolish scribbling. One of many signs, plans, maps and models dotted throughout the cathedrals' rooms.
A geometric staircase. Apparently, it's unnamed, so we're dubbing it the Escher Stairs.
A geometric staircase. Apparently, it's unnamed, so we're dubbing it the Escher Stairs.

St Paul's Cathedral isn't just massive, it's also intricate. Beyond the public areas lurks a complex network of passages, rooms, stairs and voids that would (and did) keep Lara Croft happy for weeks. So labyrinthine is this building that even its chief surveyor admits there are rooms he's not yet visited.

We were lucky enough to be given a private tour of some of these spaces. We clambered over the roof, onto the ledges, met the conservators, visited the bell chamber and — most oddly of all — passed through the 'Sick Room', which has always smelled of vomit and nobody knows why.

While most of the areas shown above are off-limits, the cathedral organises regular tours of some of the larger 'behind the scenes' spaces, including the library, 'Hogwarts' staircase and giant model of St Paul's. More info on those can be found here. The main parts of the Cathedral can, of course, be visited any time during normal opening hours, and it remains — first and foremost — a busy working church.

Last Updated 25 August 2016

David W

wow...looking forward to seeing the video..that peep hole..vertigo and claustrophobia...

Mike J

When I was working there onece (on Charles and Di wedding) one of the staff told me that it was sometimes possible to smell the remains of the plague victims buried under the crypt. However that was only possible in early morning as the visitors smelt far worse!!

Thomas Ross (aka AppleTom)

Awesome! Thank You!

DH

Fantastic treat. Intrepid reporting! Thank you!

Ms-Marple

Worked there once also...highlights include.. the Library, the vertiginous staircase between the two domes that staff use to get to the top of dome quickly, the plastic replica of Lady Diana's wedding bouquet, the early lemon light in the morning before anyone else arrived...can't wait to see the video..

nick

I don't get you guys sometimes.... you quite happily cherry pick the best quality work out of your Flickr pool (for free....) from the generous enthusiasts & photographers in London who contribute - and use these for advertising & events and article illustration. Then you get access to these incredible places all us Londoners would all love a glimpse of and take $hitty phone pictures, from a non-photographer to share with us all. sigh...... Seriously. You can't do better than that, or offer to take someone from your Flickr pool, who's work you've been using for free in the past? Or something... you tell me Londonist.

Richard Wood

I have had an extensive tour when in the fire brigade for familiarization purposes. So much of it is double skinned in order to keep the laity and clergy apart. Above every door is a small coded plaque with different colours for different area and staircases. This is to help crews if they have to move through the building in smoke. The strangest thing I saw was the staircase sign above a door that when opened gave onto a toilet. We asked our guide why the sign was wrong. He told us to go and sit on the loo, which one of us did and started laughing. Behind the door was another small staircase. If you started something on that privvy you would have to be quick if you heard footsteps on the stairs.

Micky Evans

i worked in st pauls for 3 yrs and used to go walking around all the passage ways and old rooms, i used to walk over those domes and look through the holes to the ground, i never knew the floor was only a few inches thick (phew) thinking about it now it was very creepy but being only 18 at the time it was great, id love to go back and do it all again today.