London's Coolest Converted Spaces

By Rachael Chadwick Last edited 62 months ago
London's Coolest Converted Spaces
The bar inside London's Courthouse Hotel.

From an old air-raid shelter to a previous Magistrate's court, we delve into some of the most unique converted spaces in London.

Telephone box to takeaway coffee

Unused telephone boxes scatter the streets of London, but there's one on Hampstead High Street that has had a makeover.

In early 2016, married couple Umar and Alona re-purposed the phone box, kitting it out with a coffee machine, fridge and a range of pastries, crisps and sweets.

Kape Barako in Hampstead.

There's no need to queue in the local chain coffee store — grab your cappuccino, matcha tea or chai latte from Kape Barako and head to the Heath for a wander.

Kape Barako, 25 Hampstead High Street, NW3 KB

Underground vaults to immersive theatre space

Back in the 1850s, the deep, dark maze of tunnels hidden under Waterloo station were used for storing dead bodies for the London Necropolis Railway. *Shudder*.

The Vaults by Alex.

Now, the brick arches have been brought up-to-date with a covering of Banksy graffiti, and the underground vaults are home to an exciting arts space.

The Vaults hosts a range of immersive theatre and cultural events — in the past, these have ranged from an immersive Alice in Wonderland show to Birdies underground crazy golf. Check out the website for details of what's currently playing.

The Vaults, Leake Street, SE1 7NN

Barge to bookshop

As you wander along Regent’s Canal near Granary Square, Kings Cross, you will find a canal boat with a twist.

This 100-year-old Dutch barge has been converted into a quirky independent bookshop called Word on the Water.

Word on the Water. Photo by Pawel Buderaski.

Selling new and second hand books, as well as art and photography, this floating shop has become hugely popular with Londoners (thousands signed the petition to gain Word on the Water its permanent residency near Paddington Station). Look out for poetry slams, live music and readings there, too.

Word on the Water, York Way, Granary Square

Cinema to bar and music venue

This beautiful Grade II listed building on Hoe Street provided concerts, dances and films for the people of Walthamstow from the 1890s.

But after changing ownership several times over the years, the cultural hub sadly closed its doors to the public in 2003.

Mirth, Marvel and Maud. Photo by Jamie Thompson.

Thanks to the Save Walthamstow Cinema campaign, the building was reopened as a bar in 2014, making great use of the lavish interior in the grand foyer.

Mirth, Marvel and Maud provides cocktails, food and entertainment at this special east London venue. Drop in on a rainy Sunday enjoy some live jazz while you devour a roast dinner.

Mirth, Marvel and Maud, 186 Hoe Street, E17 4QH

Public toilet to wine bar

A disused public toilet may not seem an obvious choice of place to visit for a glass of red, but the 100-year-old Victorian convenience underneath Clapham Common tube station has become a fine spot for just that.

Inside WC in Clapham.

'WC' now stands for Wine and Charcuterie (rather than Water Closet) in this restored space. The cosy, atmospheric bar is fit with the original mosaic flooring and wall tiles.

Charcuterie at WC.

Share one of the cheese and charcuterie boards with your date (just don't mention that you're eating it off an old wooden urinal partition). Delicious.

Wine & Charcuterie, Clapham Common South Side, SW4 7AA

Prison to hotel

Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Keith Richards all have a link to the Courthouse Hotel but not because they have stayed there.

The hotel was previously The Great Marlborough Street Magistrate's Court — the scene of several high profile cases over the years, including those involving the celebrities above.

Telltale heavy doors in the Courthouse Hotel bar.

It's not only the name of the lodging that gives a nod to its former use. The 5-star hotel has also incorporated some of the remnants into its décor, such as the prison cells, iron bars, the Judges' bench and the witness stand.

Courthouse Hotel, 19-21 Great Marlborough Street, W1F 7HL

Warship to livery hall

It is hard to miss the HQS Wellington warship, moored on the Victoria Embankment at Temple Pier. She was built in 1934 for the Royal Navy and served as a convoy escort ship in the Atlantic during the second world war.

HQS Wellington. Photo by Hoosier Sands.

When The Honourable Company of Master Mariners struggled to find a way to build a livery hall in London, this retired ship was bought, restored and became a floating version from 1948 to this day. Now part of the Wellington Trust, the prestigious vessel can also be hired for private events.
HQS Wellington, Temple Stairs, Victoria Embankment, WC2R 2PN

Old school bike shed to restaurant

Behind a secret green door at Arnold Circus in east London lies a cluster of Victorian School buildings dating back to 1895.

The three buildings were converted for artists and creatives; Rochelle Canteen is situated in the old school bike shed.

Shh! Photo by Don Blandford.

Founded by Arnold and Henderson, Rochelle Canteen is a small and simple BYO restaurant, where you can sample the stunning culinary delights while enjoying views of the beautiful grounds. Make a note that they only serve at lunchtimes. Oh and shhh — don't tell anyone.

Rochelle Canteen, Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, E2 7ES

Air-raid shelter to vintage bar

Cahoots is a former air raid shelter next to Carnaby Street that's been converted into a 1940s-tube-themed speakeasy.

From the moment you walk down the old wooden staircase and through the ticket office, you step back in time and into a land of a vintage glamour.

Inside Cahoots.

There is a tube carriage to sit in as you choose a drink from the endless cocktail list. Even the staff are in character — spiffing!

Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, W1B 5PG

Did we miss your favourite converted space in London? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 24 November 2016