It doesn’t matter how long I have lived in London for, I know that there is always something new to discover. And I particularly enjoy it when I learn about something that is supposedly hidden right under my feet. 🙂
The Boy and I had come in search of a supposed underground street that is reputed to be visible through a grille on a tiny island in the centre of Charing Cross Road, near Old Compton Street, in Soho. The road sign is tricky to photograph and I was in fear of dropping my ‘phone the whole time. The Boy thought I was bonkers.
Little Compton Street did exist once. It was obliterated in 1886, when the Metropolitan Board of Works demolished it and its surroundings, in order to drive Charing Cross Road through one of Victorian London’s most notorious slum districts to create a connecting link between Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road.
But is there an actual subterranean street beneath the grill? Well, to put it simply, no, there isn’t. In reality, the so-called street is actually part of a subway network built beneath Charing Cross Road to carry utilities and minimise disruption to the new road when repairs needed to be carried out. The Little Compton Street signs acted as markers so workers knew where they were without having to surface from the tunnels.
The idea of a subterranean street beneath the grill is quite appealing to me though, even if the only living things down there are London’s population of rats and mice.