London's Rumoured Secret Tunnels

M@
By M@ Last edited 28 months ago
London's Rumoured Secret Tunnels

We're all familiar (and fascinated) with the subterranean London of sewers, abandoned tube stations and lost rivers. All that stuff is generously documented across the web, as well as in numerous books. But what about the other tunnels? Rumoured tunnels. The escape routes of Dick Turpin, the covert corridors of spies and monarchs. The tunnels of pub legend that may or may not have some basis in fact.

We've started a map to collect together these putative passages. Please do feed us with information about other rumours and legends in the comments below. And if you happen to work at one of the places listed, we'd be especially interested to hear from you.

Argyll Arms to the Palladium

The nearest pub to Oxford Circus has a splendid Victorian interior, but the building dates back further, to 1742. According to the pub's website, a tunnel used to run from here to the Duke of Argyll's home, where the Palladium now stands.

Does it exist? We have no evidence for this, beyond the assertion on the pub's website.

Berry Brothers to St James's Palace

Berry Brothers and Rudd is a posh wine merchant on St James's Street. It's been there centuries, and its vast basement is even older. Rumour has it that a passage runs from the shop to the palace on t'other side of Pall Mall. It supposedly dates from the Stuart era, when Merry Monarch Charles II would use it to slip across the road unnoticed into a high-class brothel.

Does it exist? We've seen this one. Sort of. The basement definitely contains a bricked up archway pointing in the direction of the Palace. The staff at the time of our visit did not know what was behind the sealed portal, nor when it was bricked up.

Black Lion to Old Spotted Dog

Two very old east London pubs, the former in Plaistow, the latter (sadly long-closed) in Forest Gate. An old smugglers' tunnel is said to link them together, and possibly run further into the area. It's said to date from a time when all this was marshland, and smugglers could steer their boats far inland before taking to the tunnel. Naturally enough, it is often associated with Dick Turpin.

Does it exist? No. Look at the length of it on the map. Despite being a master of the underground, Dick Turpin didn't have access to tunnel-boring machines.

Buckingham Palace to the Tube

One of London's most famous secret tunnel suggestions posits an emergency escape route for the Monarchy. Various proposals have been suggested, including a tunnel from Buckingham Palace to Green Park tube station or (marginally more plausibly), direct access to the Victoria Line, which runs beneath the Palace. In one version of the story, the Queen has her own private tube train that could slip in-between services. Mind one's gap.

Does it exist? Highly doubtful. If there is a regal escape route, it is more likely to be a conventional tunnel connecting up to the government complex beneath the Admiralty and Whitehall, which certainly exist.

George and Dragon, Acton

george

One of our favourite pubs, now also trading as the Dragonfly Brewery, is rumoured to have a passage in its basement leading across the High Street to where the Oaks shopping centre now stands.

Does it exist? Workers restoring the Globe Cinema in 1938 discovered an ancient tunnel 12 feet below the building, pointing in the direction of the George. So, quite possibly, yes.

Leicester Arms to the Glassblower

Two Taylor Walker pubs near Piccadilly Circus. According to the Leicester's website, "The site on which the pub sits was previously a children’s work house in the Victorian era. It is rumoured that tunnels still remain underground, linking to one of our sister pubs, the Glassblower." Further info on the Glassblower's website: "The site was originally a Victorian workhouse. It was separated into two buildings that were connected via a large underground tunnel."

Does it exist? The idea of a workhouse split in two, connected by a tunnel, sounds plausible. However, we can't find any evidence of a workhouse on this site in either the newspaper archives or on old maps. We welcome any information.

MI6 Headquarters to Whitehall

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There are many rumours of tunnels connecting government buildings. Certainly, there is an extensive network beneath Westminster, known as Q-Whitehall. But how extensive is this network? One suggestion, based on hidden accountancy, reckons there's a connection between Whitehall and MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross. Perhaps this is the facility visited by James Bond in Die Another Day.

Does it exist? Who can say? Anyone involved with construction of government tunnels would have signed a pretty severe version of the Official Secrets Act. It's a long way to tunnel without anyone noticing, however.

Old Bailey to St Sepulchre

The Old Bailey famously stands on the site of Newgate Prison, for centuries the chief holding place for condemned criminals. Nearby stands the church of St Sepulchre. It's often stated that a tunnel led from church to prison so that clergymen and bell-men could easily reach the condemned, thus bypassing the crowds who would gather above to watch the execution, or the beginning of the journey to Tyburn gallows.

Does it exist? The tunnel is mentioned frequently in articles about the prison. However, we've never seen a primary source or any photographic evidence of its existence. The basement of the Old Bailey is fascinating in its own right, however, with fragments of the Roman wall and the dead-man's walk — a narrow passage that led to the internal gallows.

Roman wall, not secret passage.

Oliver's Island to the Bull's Head

One of the small aits in the Thames at Chiswick, Oliver's Island is (probably spuriously) said to be a location where Oliver Cromwell took refuge during the Civil War. Local legend has a tunnel running from the island to the nearby Bull's Head pub.

Does it exist? No sign of the tunnel has ever been found.

St Ermine's Hotel to Westminster

The Striking St Ermine's Hotel near St James's tube station was home to both MI6 and the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. Wherever you find spooks, you will find rumours of secret passages. The hotel itself speaks of 'rumours' of a tunnel under its grand staircase, leading to Westminster. Guys... just go and check.

Does it exist? No idea. Anyone from St Ermine's reading and want to take us on an investigative site visit?

Theatre Royal to Nell of Old Drury

A short tunnel, this, supposedly connecting one of London's principal theatres to a nearby drinking hole. Its purpose? Same as the Berry Brothers tunnel... for Charles II to pay a sly visit to his mistress and dedicatee of the pub, Nell Gwynn.

Does it exist? The pub says it does, but we've yet to see firm evidence.

Ye Olde King's Head, Chigwell

This former pub turned Turkish restaurant has Tudor origins. According to local lore, the building was used as a meeting place for Roundheads in the Civil War. A tunnel under the road leads to Chigwell School, which also dates from this period. Dick Turpin supposedly drank here (and everywhere), using the tunnel to make a swift exit.

Does it exist? Restaurant manager Colin Hunt confirms the tunnel's existence in this here local news article. Of course, he might just be attempting to build mystique around his business. Mr Hunt... if you're reading, we'd love to inspect your tunnel.

Any other properly mysterious tunnels to declare? Let us know in the comments.

Last Updated 01 August 2015

Steve

There used to be tunnels from Broadcasting House to the neighbouring buildings. When very high profile celebs were visiting for live appearances they would be taken out through the tunnel to Egton House (I remember Muhammed Ali being taken out this way). I guess it all went in the refurb, when the huge nuclear bunker under the 'new wing' was demolished for the recent rebuild og BH.

pe_col

There is an alleged tunnel in Peckham, from what User to be a stately home (now a scaffolding firm) to the theatre, which is now the police station.
There was a rumoured Nell Gwynn connection.

Somersetchris

I have heard stories about a tunnel under the Thames linking the Shell buildings. Is that a myth?

David Long

I've heard rumours of one linking Lots Road power station to Dolphin Square - large enough to ride a horse through, although I've never been to see.

UFOHUNTERORGUK.COM

Apparently there is a secret tunnel running from the BBC to every children's hospital in the country, Jimmy Savile used it quite a lot and was able to carry out his crimes without anyone in broadcasting house noticing!

mr mole

in & out club on piccadilly to the palace

Peeb

joining UCLH buildings. There was a tunnel from the nurses home to the old Middlesex Hospital - which is now becoming NoHo. There are tunnels between a lot of the UCLH and university buildings that joined the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson maternity hospital with the neighbouring 4 buildings - I walked through them about 12 years ago, not sure if they're still there

Jonathan Wadman

Isn't there supposed to be a tunnel linking the Morpeth Arms on Millbank to the Millbank Penitentiary? Of course the latter has long since been replaced by Tate Britain on the surface, but underground...?

Aidan McManus

When the 12 Bar in Denmark street was squatted they found a bricked up tunnel in the basement that pointed towards the church over the road. This building was part of the St Giles Rookery that was riddled with tunnels apparently.

Nick Young

Out in Edgware, Cannons (the 18th century stately home, demolished c.1740, after which Canons Park is named) was said to be connected by tunnel to St Lawrence's Curch on Whitchurch Lane. Handel, whose patron (the Duke of Chandos) was the man who built Cannons, was said to use the tunnel to get from the house to the church, where he played the organ.

Fiona

St Mary's churchyard, Bermondsey to Guys Hospital? For the grave robbers. Physical tunnel seems unlikely, but maybe they paid someone to look the other way.

LondonSounds

I worked in the mid-1990s for London Underground. One of the senior engineers, with high-level security clearance, once left a diagram on his desk which I saw. It showed the Northern and Bakerloo line tunnels where they crossed under the Thames, and the flooded remains of the Hampstead Loop, which is closed off except for a small chamber between bulkheads that can be accessed from a shaft in Embankment station.

There was another tunnel indicated on the plan. It looked to be the same width as a tube tunnel, and also crossed the Thames at slight angle, from around the Strand/Aldwych on the north side to near Waterloo station on the south side. From I what I recall, at one point it passed under the Northern line tunnels, meaning that it might have been in the chalk layer. The engineer came back to his desk and saw me looking at the plan. He rolled it up quickly and put it away somewhere, then told me to forget about it.

Dr_Paul_1955

My granny told me that when she was in service in Petersham, this would now be 100 years ago, there was a tunnel from the Fox and Duck pub down to the Thames at the end of River Lane, and that it was used by smugglers. I thought that this was a bit odd, as why would smugglers dig a near half-mile tunnel in a sparsely-inhabited and very sparsely-policed area. However, it is almost certainly a culvert containing the stream from near Ham Gate in Richmond Park down to the Thames. It was this that collapsed and caused the 'Petersham Hole' that created havoc for road traffic between Richmond and Kingston a few years back.

SuperPorts

As a child in the late 60s growing up in Battersea my Dad was good friends with the landlord on the Raven Pub on the High St. We were always told that there was an old smugglers tunnel from the pub cellar leading to the nearby river Thames. I've no idea if it was true and never saw it but it makes a very good tale.

Albert Drysdale

I had someone from the Grenadier pub in Wilton Row asking me if it was true that the Duke of Wellington had a tunnel from Apsley House to the cellar of the pub.... I explained that if he wanted to go to the pub, he'd probably have walked overground, rather than have constructed a tunnel.

There can be old 'tunnels' for all sorts of reasons, eg. brick drains/ culverts, or service tunnels connecting separate stables or kitchens to the 'big house' to prevent staff from having to go outside to get muddy/ cold/ wet. (Eg At Petworth in Sussex a tunnel connects the coal shed on the road, the kitchens/ servants quarters and on to the house, with a branch which pops into the corner of the churchyard to allow the staff to get to church without having to go the long way round via the front door.)
Any Archaeologist on a dig will confirm that people love to ask if they have found the 'tunnels' linking the pub and the church and the Manor House. People love the idea of them, and often there are crates of Spitfires buried at the end of them....

Tube Rambler

There was a tunnel (now sealed off) between the former New End Hospital in Hampstead to the 1890 mortuary across the road. This building became a theatre, now a synagogue..

Steve

In the early 1970s I worked in Curzon Street House, at the Berkley Square end of Curzon Street. At that time it was occupied by the then Department of Education and Science. The building itself had been intended to be a hotel, but - in a still incomplete state - vast amounts of of bomb-proofing concrete had been added so that Eisenhower could make it his wartime HQ in London. There were alleged to be 5 basement levels but we could only access the top 3 where the bomb-proof doors were left permanently open. The common belief was that there was a tunnel from either level 4 or 5, under Green Park, to Buckingham Palace providing access for the Royal Family to the Curzon Street House deep shelter.
The DES moved out in 1972 or 1973, the building was refurbished out of all recognition and - allegedly - occupied by the security services who were making constructive use of the basement floors. No idea if this latter story is true!

David

There must be a tunnel under the river from Battersea to Churchill Gardens. Heating for the housing blocks was provided from the generators in the power station. Not sure how large the tunnel was - presumably enough to walk through, for maintenance. Wonder what is happening to it in the new development.

Richard

There is Definatly something going on along Whitehall, I work on the tour buses and a few years ago a big hole appeared not far from the Cenotaph, plenty of hoardings put around the site to stop people looking in, however we could see over the top from the open top bus, nothing exciting however over an entire summer we saw plenty of equipment of all shapes and sizes being taken down there and NOTHING ever came back out, apparently it's such a maze down there there are emergency telephones on every corner so if you are lost you can be located, also heard a rumour of a secret tunnel from Westminster station to Parliment so MPs can access the building directly (or escape the wrath of the public when they vote for an unpopular policy)

Robertster

It's not especially secret but there's a tunnel between the Houses of Parliament and Portcullis House so MPs can move between their office and chambers without having to cross the road and be bother by voters. It also has an entrance directly into Westminster station - on the public side of the barriers so it's pretty easy to spot.

spellchecker

A bit poor that the St Ermin's Hotel's name has been spelt incorrectly.

james

i have heard of a rumour of a tunnel from kensington palace to a building in church st

HHGeek

Has anyone else heard that there was once some sort of access from the Bank of England to the river? Can't remember where I heard that, unfortunately.

TDMCP

I'd heard that when they built the Central Line a parallel tunnel was built to evacuate the Royal family and MPs to RAF Northolt in an emergency

Jessie Simmons

This is from pubs.com about a tunnel between The London Apprentice and a nearby church (plus Nell Gwynne popping up again!):

This attractive Georgian, Thames-side pub takes its name from the City livery company apprentices, who stopped here for refreshments after their long row upstream. The pub was a place for secret liaisons; in Tudor times, Henry VIII with wife to be Catherine Howard, (ironically she was held nearby at Syon House before her execution in 1542) and later, Charles II with his mistress Nell Gwynne. Rebuilt in the early 18th century, it was a resting place for travellers on the river and stayed open all night. A tunnel which links the pub with the nearby church, was used by smugglers to store contraband in the crypt.

Flying cow

There's a tunnel from the old Royal Mint to the Tower of London. Well there was once, it's completely filled in but I used to work in a building at the mint and being shown the tunnel was a thing for all newbies.

del

a tunnel below Clapham common junct of the south circular road and avenue road. does it exist.yes ive seen it ,and an underground hospital fully maintained regulary.a concrete turret with a lift down to the tunnel .my friend a plumber/pipefitter went often to maintain it.he was told it was a plce where in war important personel would be .route to Westminster I don't know .instintk yes.

rdalton

The Horseshoes in Clerkenwell Close is the site of what has always been a public house and has tunnels leading from Clerkenwell Court House via the pub to the Clerkenwell school of detention. There is also supposedly a tunnel leading from Clerkenwell Court house to the old bailey. It was so they could easily move prisoners. Richard at the Horseshoes is a fountain of local knowledge.

Geoff

The Ailsa Tavern in St. Margaret's Twickenham http://www.ailsatavern.com/the...

Kevin George Bowdery

There was a rumour of a tunnel from the wharf next to Chelsea bridge North Side where the rubbish barges used to load that connects to Buck House to allow the Royals to escape down the Thames in a emergency. I've been in the Railway Sidings next to it and there's plenty of possible exits/entrances at the waters edge ?

Ruth Miller

Up here in Upper Norwood, there was a rumour of a tunnel from Mary Nesbit's house, which is in the Effra Valley at Central Hill, up into Beulah Hill. She did own land at Crown Point (so at the top of the hill) but it doesn't sound feasible she would have created a tunnel heading that way. So Mary's tunnel is unlikely to exist, however some local historian wrote about standing in a tunnel heading out from one of the houses on Beulah Hill... maybe the stories are related?

Roy L

Q Whitehall is not a tunnel system but an underground communications centre. There is a door between it and a deep-level section of Whitehall Exchange in Craigs Court. There is also Y Whitehall which is under the Treasury. There are tunnels connecting them though.

Roy L

You don't mention the deep level BT tunnel network. A tunnel ran from Keybridge House (South Lambeth Road) to Columbo House near Waterloo and then under the Thames to the Faraday Building in Queen Victoria Street and up to Trunks Kingsway which is a tunnel parallel to the Aldwich branch of the Picadilly Line. There was several offshoots to other buildings like Bastion, Fleet Building other main comes centres.

Roy L

There also a tunnel rumoured to run from St Johns Chuch at Harrow On The Hill to a pub a bit further Don the High Street. It's supposed to date back to Henry 8th.

Roy L

A final snippet is the tunnel Network under Imperial College. You can walk from Queensgate to the Halls east of Exhibition Road (Southside) without seeing daylight! Every so often the tunnels open out into large chambers which contain ships boilers which are used to heat the College.

Roy L

Just a quick one - most of the older hospitals have tunnel networks linking the various buildings. The old UCH in Gower street had one that ran Don Huntley St. Barts has a tunnel that runs from the main site to the QE wing in Little Britain via the Queen Mary's Nurses Home.

Matt Roberts

Don't how true it is by a relative of mine who worked for London Borough of Ealing that all the local council bigwigs used to decamp once a year to a bunker near Heathrow Airport for their continuity of government exercises, Urban legend also had that there was a tunnel from Hanwell Asylum towards the Viaduct and that there was also a tunnel under hanwell community centre

Graham L

The Harrods tunnel that ran from the store under Brompton Road to Trevor Place is well documented.

It's rumoured that in order to outwit the Paparazzi, Princess Diana used to enter the store via this tunnel with Dodi Al-Fayed for after-hours shopping expeditions.

Madoc Threipland

Love this! x

Gwen Nelson

When I was growing up in Stockwell there was a rumour of a tunnel that ran from Lambeth Palace to Priory Grove S.W.8 that had been built during the reign of Henry VIII to enable the monks to escape when his troops ransacked the monasteries.

lux aurora in obscuro

TDMCP is correct about tunnels to Northolt that's if the firm don't utilise the Mall as a runway after removal of lampost's... London Sounds 'HiFi repair?' Is correct also the tunnels under Holborn / Strand / Covent Garden all linking up towards Waterloo Station in one direction but also heading towards SW1 in the other again all linking up together with as mentioned SW1 Q & Y. Underground London and I believe this is just scratching the surface 'pardon the pun'.

Roger Dodger Taylor

There's tunnels under lots road power station but not had chance to have a look as il get kicked of site lol

Roger Dodger Taylor

And the building next door has 4 sub levels also but these are currently flooded

lestat

The is meant to be tunnels under the Queen Elizabeth The 2nd Conference Centre in Westminster I work there years ago the was floors underground we wasn't aloud to go but never seen them myself

Scott Adams

Hi there , was trying to find out about roadways under London , and found myself here , here is what i know so far , my brother worked for a Glasgow based company Eagle Couriers and a lot of their work involved picking up and delivering packages for BT all over the country , but on one occassion he made a delivery to the City of London , he was directed by security guards to an entrance i assume and ended up in an underground network of roads , at each junction , there were to various street names and buildings . does anybody here know anything about them ?? Having found this site has obviously got me more interested , i will have a chat with my brother again and get more info !!

Bob

There's a tunnel underneath Senate House to the British Museum but it's blocked off. There are other various tunnels from Senate House but I don't think these are operational anymore. There is one where you leave Senate House and end up at SOAS which is still in use. I went on a tour: http://beinghumanfestival.org/...

Greg Tingey

Tate Gallery, Millbank ( So-called "Tate Britain" ) was built on the site of (part of ) Millbank prison.
Tunnel, part of which is supposed to exist at the other end leads to the cellars of the "Morpeth Arms" pub & was used, supposedly to escort prisoners awaiting transportation to the then nearby jetty.
Listed on their web-site as: "former cell corridor"

rexlombardo

There's the spur linking Buckingham Palace into the Piccadilly line. Look on the left as you go towards Hyde Park from Green Park. It gets the Queen to the airport in her gilded carriage. There's definitely something there.

Then there's the tunnel heading towards Camberwell from Elephant that was never completed but apparently goes for 100 yards or so under Walworth Road.

Other than that there's that great big dirty new tunnel being built by Thames Water to carry all the crap out of London. Can't come too soon.

Deborah

My 93 year old father tells me that there were tunnels running from Barclays Bank Circus Place, London Wall too Finsbury Circus. Apparently the bankers (and this was 70 years ago) use to go down a lift shaft in the bank go along the tunnel and would go up a lift shaft and come out in a Post Office. Unfortunately my father can't remember what Post Office it was. Another tunnel came up near Jacksons a delicatessen and also the site of the old Bethlehem Hospital. Some of these went also from Westminster Bank or National Provincial Bank which was opposite Barclays.

dgbdgb

Some underground tunnels in the Canonbury Area. Press reports from some time back (around 1900) sounds probably true. I suspect they found either water conduit tunnels, or just possibly vaults for the raised gardens that used to be behind Canonbury House. Story out around is that they go to St Barts in Smithfield but that can't be true.

Mark

Re the Charles II tunnel mentioned in the article. In thr 1980's I worked for Sun Alliance at 88 St James's Street, which is the location allegedly of the high class brothel mentioned. I was told this at interview. I can remember being in the vault below the basement where old documents were kept. The tunnel entrance - bricked up - was there.

Another fact. In the main office were 2 chandeliers. One was supposedly a priceless original, the other a replica created by Sun Alliance...

Jane Robinson

When I was investigating Military Hospitals in the First World War a few months ago, I came across something about tunnels which ran between Waterloo Station and the King George V Military Hospital in Stamford Street. The building now belongs to Kings College, but had been built originally to be part of the Stationery Office, so tunnels to Waterloo were useful. Its completion was around the time when war was breaking out, so its use changed to that of a large, much needed Military Hospital and now the tunnels took on a new, more poignant role. Trains were piling into Waterloo carrying very badly wounded young men from the Front and it was important that the public never saw the terrible suffering as this could have diminished support for the War, especially when gas was introduced and so the wounded were taken into the depths of the hospital via the tunnels.

Slugabed

In Battersea from the Raven pub to the Crypt of St Mary's church.

Always Sneaky

Unknown to many, there does exist a sercet network of cable subways around the City.
Here's an example of one of Londons finest.....
https://youtu.be/vyJ4Ndvt4R0

Christine Rowe

My father worked in the wholesale florist shop to the right of
nell of old drury from the 1930s named david ingamells. In the basement of the shop there was a tunnel that led from catherine street to wellington street and then over the road to where penhaligans now stands. In the catherine street shop basement you could clearly see where a tunnel had been bricked up which led to nell of old drury. My father told me that there were tunnels all around the market which were used for transport, storing flowers (and other goods), growing hycinths. Most of the tunnels were closed off in the 1950s following a fire that swept underground. My father and uncle can be seen loading van in the background the nell of old drury scene in the film frenzy.

SB

Not sure if this has been reported but having worked on the refurb of Thames House (MI5 building) many years ago we found a substantial steel fallout shelter level door way down in the basement. it was on the Thames side of the building and never found out what was behind it. there were lots of rumours about that being a tunnel.
I do know there are tunnels from Vauxhall House (MI6 building) on both the Thames side and to another building on the other side of the junction and link to a building in Kennington Lane (check out the same unusual cameras and high security portal entrances) - always thought this was either a escape option if the building came under attack (red strobe lights under the cameras) or some sort of entrance for those not wishing to be observed entering the main site
Just as well I was never asked to sign the OSA!! woops they slipped up there!!!

DeborahMason

I've just been doing some research in Lambeth archives and in Clowes' handwritten history of Kennington he mentions three possible tunnels - one with a living eye witness. One which was connected to a house called the Manor which was knocked down to make way for Reedworth Street, one which would be roughly around the Jewson's site in Kennington Lane (soon to be redeveloped so here's hoping they find something) and one which would be at the bottom end of Kennington Lane near St Anne's Church and which supposedly ran down to the river - this is the one that had an eyewitness report - Clowes was writing in 1916 and the witness had lived in the house and been taken into the tunnel as a child sometime in the mid 19th Century. A couple of the houses near the church appear to be original 19thC so maybe the tunnel is still there? Although some of it surely destroyed by the railway/tube. Clowes himself is quite sceptical about the tunnels because of the low lying nature of the land and the potential for flooding - but at St Mary's Lambeth they have just found an 18th Century crypt which everyone assumed couldn't exist for the same reason - and it doesn't appear to have been flooded even though the 1877 and 1928 floods would certainly have reached the walls of the church.