London. City of dreams. Some say you’re less fun than New York, less historical than Rome, less beautiful than Paris. But what do they know? Allow me, kind reader, to enlighten you on a few of the hidden wonders of this city of cities.
1. Hidden lairs
Over the centuries, Londoners have shaped the environment they live in. We have built over the many rivers that now power our sewers, created underground stables in Camden where unfortunate ponies who pulled river barges never saw the light of day, and even carved out manmade caves in Chislehurst. Intrepid explorers should investigate the underground bunkers, ghost railway stations, and even Roman amphitheatre lying beneath their feet.
2. The seven noses of Soho
Urban myth or living legend? Rumour has it that seven noses are fixed to building walls in and around Soho and anyone managing to find all seven are destined for untold wealth. The most famous of these noses is on Admiralty Arch – some say it’s a tribute to the Duke of Wellington, long renowned for his prominent hooter. Passing household cavalry soldiers touch it for luck, in honour of one of the country’s most famous generals.
3. Covered up crudeness
If The Miller’s Tale by Chaucer left you with an impression that our medieval ancestors were surprisingly vulgar, you’d be right. They called it how they saw it in the Dark Ages, which meant Bread Street was, unsurprisingly, named after it’s bakers’ market. It also lead to thoroughfares called Gropecunt Lane in honour of the many prostitutes plying their trade in the area and Pissing Alley, whose unfortunate residents lived near a cesspit. Few of these street names have survived the centuries thanks to the censorious efforts of less open-minded local authorities, but London’s legacy of lewdness has not been forgotten.
4. The Secret Garden
Secret gardens aren’t only for orphaned young girls in novels by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Tucked off Kingsland Road in a bustling part of Hackney lies St Mary’s Secret Garden, a horticultural project offering a herb garden, vegetable bed, and sanctuary for frazzled Hackney-ites looking to reconnect with nature. Although only local residents are given a key to the garden, members of the public can visit between 9-5 on weekdays.
5. Secret fun
Secret cinemas, secret speakeasies, pop up restaurants, illegal raves. Nuff said. Those wanting recommendations need only get in touch…