Going Underground – London’s Hidden Treasures
We’re going underground to unearth some of the capital’s beautifully restored examples of Victorian architecture, brought back to life by community arts projects.
My love of these hidden treasures stems from a visit to a London craft fair in Crystal Palace Subway earlier this summer. Although little is given away above ground, it’s below the city that this stunning Victoriana really puts on its party frock. This subway heralds a great bygone era, when even humble transport hubs were given the full glamour treatment.
Opened with typical fanfare in 1865, the Subway created a link for first-class-only rail passengers to walk from the new High Level Station to the famous glass edifice that was the Crystal Palace Exhibition building. Anyone in a cheap seat would have to walk the long way round. It’s easy to believe the rumour that this Byzantine influenced thoroughfare was the work of Italian cathedral builders when you witness the ornately fluid contoured brick ceiling, held aloft by stout hexagonal pillars. It’s generously designed to a fault for such public functionality.
Moving nearer to the subway’s core, beneath taxi drivers rowing with cycle couriers on the A212 above, you fall ‘Alice-like’ down this bejeweled rabbit hole; even in its current derelict state, it evokes sepia visions of Victorian ladies with swaying bustles dimly lit by gaslight.
This subterranean space has seen it all; everything from an air raid shelter, a 1970s community events venue, it even hosted raves in the 1990s and featured in the Chemical Brothers’ video ‘Setting Sun’; quite an architectural career…
For more historical information, simply view Sue Giovanni’s video here
The energy and determination of local community groups is also breathing new life into similarly impressive sites under London…
The Vaults in Lambeth hide a tangle of disused railway arches beneath Waterloo Station, which have been transformed to showcase immersive theatre groups, alternative artists, pop-up supper clubs, music, comedy and provide a wonderfully moody backdrop for burlesque shows. The space calls itself ‘unusual, daring and unknown’, each arch having its own character, exposed pipes and ducting visually shouting its industrial heritage.
The Vault Festival runs from 28 January 2020 – 22 March 2020.
The House of Detention in Clerkenwell was originally part of a busy Victorian prison. Opened in 1847 as a remand centre and famous for attempted jailbreaks. What’s not to like? The prison building was demolished in 1890, but the vaults beneath remain. The exposed brickwork, gaping arches in ‘communal spaces’, original flagstone floors combine to give a real taste of the harsh realities of Victorian prison life, further echoed by original barred doors and windows leading to narrow cells.
Featuring in the Clerkenwell Design Week (19-21 May 2020), the wider areas will feature larger interior design installations, while the actual cells will lend themselves to more intimate spaces, holding pockets of differing design pieces and individual collections.
London’s Hidden Treasures
The cliché is that in most towns and cities, to properly appreciate the architectural history, we should look up. This is often great advice, as above the soulless shop fronts is usually the ‘good stuff’. But, once in while, we should turn cliché on its head.
So for some real artistic treats, look down, go underground.
Whether you have been looking for something to complement your newly designed room or are considering an investment piece, Casey & Fox can help you find the right piece to bring style to your home.