Secret Tunnels in London that May Only be Rumours

London is not only about what you can see and experience on its surface but a lot lies hidden in its underbelly as subterranean London holds many sewers, abandoned tube stations and lost rivers. Most of these places have been recorded properly and people can read about them and get all the information that they want but London’s underbelly also holds tunnels, many of which are merely rumours that may or may not be true. History offers many references to such tunnels that were used by Dick Turpin for his escape or the covert corridors of monarchs and spies and the tunnels of pub legend but did they really exist?

Argyll Arms to the Palladium: The nearest pub to Oxford Circus is housed in a building that dates back to 1742 and it has a magnificent Victorian interior. The only reference to the existence of a tunnel underneath the building is found in the pub’s website that speaks of a tunnel that once ran from the building to the home of the Duke of Argyll, where the Palladium is now located. Apart from the website, there is no other evidence to support the existence of this tunnel.

Berry Brothers to St James’s Palace: The basement of the building that houses Berry Brothers & Rudd, a posh wine merchant on St James’s Street, is even older than the building which has been there for centuries. It is rumoured that there is a passage from the shop to the palace on the other side of Pall Mall and that this passage was used by Charles II to go unnoticed to a high class brothel on the other side of the road. Regarding the veracity of this rumour, there is indeed a bricked up archway pointing in the direction of the Palace but no one knows what lies on the other side.

Black Lion to Old Spotted Dog: These two very old East London pubs are rumoured to have been linked together by an old smugglers’ tunnel that probably dates back to when all this area was marsh land so that smugglers could steer their boats far inland before going into the tunnel. Although it is associated with Dick Turpin, it is hard to believe because there were no tunnel boring machines that Dick Turpin could have used.

Buckingham Palace to the Tube: Made for a Royal escape, this tunnel is supposed to be an emergency escape route for the Monarchy. It is rumoured that the Queen has her own private tube train that can take her from the palace to Green Park tube station or probably to the Victoria line. It is highly doubtful because a regal escape would be a conventional tunnel connecting up to the government complex between the Admiralty and Whitehall.

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George and Dragon, Acton: This pub is rumoured to have a passage connecting its basement to the Oaks shopping centre. It is probably true because workers restoring the Globe Cinema in 1938 discovered an ancient tunnel 12 feet below the building.

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Leicester Arms to the Glassblower: The website of Leicester Arms says that there was a children’s work house in the Victorian era, at the site on which the pub is now located. There are rumours about the existence of underground tunnels linking this pub to the Glassblower, a sister pub. Previously there was a Victorian workhouse at the site that was separated into two buildings connected by a large underground tunnel. Although this is probably true, there is no evidence of a workhouse at the site.

MI6 Headquarters to Whitehall: There certainly are tunnels connecting government buildings and there is an extensive network beneath Westminster, known as Q-Whitehall. Probably there is a connection between Whitehall and MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross that was visited by James Bond in Die Another Day. There is no way to find out about its veracity because workers involved in making the tunnels would have been bound by the Official Secrets Act.

Old Bailey to St Sepulchre: It is rumoured that a tunnel existed between St Sepulchre church to the Old Bailey that stands on the site of Newgate Prison where condemned criminals were held and that it was used by clergymen and bell-men for reaching the condemned prisoners unnoticed from crowds gathered for seeing the execution. There is frequent mention of the tunnel in articles about the prison.

Oliver’s Island to the Bull’s Head: According to local legend, a tunnel runs from Oliver’s Island which is one of the small aits in the Thames at Chiswick and where Oliver Cromwell took refuge during the Civil War, to the nearby Bull’s Head pub. However, there has never been any evidence of its existence.

St Ermine’s Hotel to Westminster: Both M16 and the Special Operations Executive were housed in St Ermine’s Hotel near St James’s tube station during World War II leading to rumours of a tunnel under the grand staircase of the hotel leading to Westminster. The hotel subscribes to this rumour but there is no evidence beyond that.

Theatre Royal to Nell of Old Drury: There are rumours of a short tunnel connecting the Theatre Royal to a nearby pub that was supposedly used by Charles II to visit his mistress at the pub, Nell Gwynn that is only confirmed by the pub but there is no other evidence.

Ye Olde King’s Head to Chigwell: It is rumoured that a tunnel under the road leads to Chigwell School that is only confirmed by the restaurant manager but there is no other evidence.

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