As London’s underground Mail Rail is opened to the public for the first time, we unearth 10 more little-known subterranean attractions in the capital.
1. Greenwich & Woolwich Foot Tunnels
Atmospheric, early-20th century tiled tunnels, two miles apart, running under the Thames and accessed by huge lifts and spiral staircases. The Greenwich Tunnel is currently trialling use by cyclists (who use it anyway). Check website for lift closures.
2. The Silver Vaults, Chancery Lane
Prosperous late Victorians used to store their valuables here, but since the Second World War the underground vaults with their massive prison-style doors have been used by silver dealers who are not only welcoming but fantastically knowledgeable.
3. St Bride’s Crypt, Fleet Street
Glorious post-war rebuild of Christopher Wren’s church, long since adopted by Fleet Street journalists, with a fine crypt partly revealed by the Blitz. See the Saxon apse, Roman mosaic and printing exhibition. If you’re lucky, they may show you the ossuary.
4. Chislehurst Caves, near Bromley
Labyrinth of interlinked tunnels burrowed into chalk 100 feet below Chislehurst, used over the years for lime burning, brick making, munition and mushroom storage, shelter for up to 15,000 people in the Blitz and many gigs, including the Stones. Hourly tours.
5. Brunel Museum Thames Tunnel, Rotherhithe
Descend the cavernous shaft dug for the world’s first sub-river tunnel from Rotherhithe to Wapping. It was a failure for Marc Brunel and his son Isambard, but it still carries the Tube, its sweet little museum stages eccentric events and on Friday and Saturday nights the Midnight Apothecary serves cocktails in the garden on top of the shaft.