Archives' exhibition uncovers sewers, shelters, tunnels… and a ‘lost shopping arcade’

Long forgotten rivers, tunnels, sewers, deep shelters, and the world’s first subterranean railway are explored in Under Ground London, the forthcoming exhibition at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA).

The free exhibition (15 April – 31 October) at the City of London Corporation’s Clerkenwell-based archives will venture deep beneath the capital’s streets and buildings to illustrate a London unknown to most of us.

The most startling story told by Under Ground London relates to the legend of a cobbled street of Georgian or Victorian shops, which was apparently buried beneath Oxford Street, and built over during the development of the area. Archivists at LMA believe that they may have pinpointed the location and nature of this ‘lost shopping parade’ and will present their evidence in the exhibition.

Other highlights include the Thames Tunnel, which opened in 1843 and was the world’s first tunnel under a river; London’s ‘ghost stations’, including Strand and King William Street; initial designs for the Metropolitan Railway, the world’s first underground railway; and images of the River Fleet, displayed for the first time.

Under Ground London also celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who designed the scheme to overhaul London’s drainage systems in the nineteenth century at a time when sewage routinely drained into the River Thames, sanitation was poor, and outbreaks of cholera were rife. His work led to the introduction of a new system of sewers, which is still in place today.

Graham Packham, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said:

“Fascinating and unexpected insights into London’s history, supported by visually engaging and beautifully preserved materials, have come to characterise the exhibitions at LMA, and I am sure that ‘Under Ground London’ will be no exception.

“Visitors will find out how one of the capital’s less celebrated figures saved Londoners from the so-called ‘The Great Stink’, explore the first tunnel under the River Thames and unbelievably, discover evidence of a lost street that, according to legend, may be buried underneath Oxford Street.”

Laurence Ward, the City of London Corporation’s Head of Digital Services at London Metropolitan Archives, said:

“Few of us who live and work in London know much about the sprawling network of tunnels and spaces under our feet, and it is fair to say that we are both fascinated and fearful of what lies beneath us.

“My colleagues and I have brought together original documents, maps, images, and films stretching back hundreds of years to present a genuinely revelatory exhibition that charts the development of this subterranean city.”

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages London Metropolitan Archives, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year.

The City Corporation is also developing Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate – a multi-million-pound investment which will create a new cultural and creative destination for London over the next 10 to 15 years. This includes £110m funding to support the Museum of London’s move to West Smithfield and £4.9m to support the detailed business case for the proposed Centre for Music.


Notes for Editors:

For high resolution images and interviews with Laurence Ward, Head of Digital Services at London Metropolitan Archives, please contact Andrew Buckingham (see below for details):

Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer, City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333060 /


About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.