Buried street in London
January 5, 2006 2:54 PM   Subscribe

There's a preserved street in the basement of one of the London department stores. Where is it?

I saw it on TV once. It's a preserved street that was once outdoors but somehow the store was built right on top of it. It's definitely London (I've found info on similar places elsewhere), and it's not open to the public. Any ideas?
posted by cillit bang to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you sure it's London? I saw a programme a few weeks ago (on Discovery maybe?) where Lisa Tarbuck visited a buried street behind a door in the back of a Waterstone's somewhere, but I don't think it was London. Then again, I wasn't paying much attention.
posted by macdara at 3:02 PM on January 5, 2006

Were you talking about a street that was built over, or were you talking about a street that was built underground in the 50's as a retreat for parliament in the event of a nuclear attack and was put up for auction recently?
posted by SpecialK at 3:27 PM on January 5, 2006

Was it Mary King Close, Edinburgh?
posted by dash_slot- at 3:31 PM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: Definitely London, and one that was built over rather than built underground.
posted by cillit bang at 3:36 PM on January 5, 2006

There are similar things in Seattle, in the Pioneer Square area. The ground was built up over the streets, but at one time the underground streets had storefronts and everything, even after being covered. There's even a tour available.
posted by lhauser at 3:43 PM on January 5, 2006

Could it be the Roman amphitheatre under Guildhall Yard? That's only been opened recently, I think. Or the cabinet war rooms?

Edinburgh sounds like the best fit, though...
posted by Leon at 4:01 PM on January 5, 2006

Is it the John Lewis Building? This page mentions a "600-year-old undercroft" in the basement.
posted by Gator at 4:16 PM on January 5, 2006

I know, this doesn't help you find the street in London, but there's a streetfront like this in Sacramento that's pretty cool.
posted by eleyna at 4:32 PM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: That John Lewis thing sounds about right. Pity there isn't more information. Thanks all.
posted by cillit bang at 4:34 PM on January 5, 2006

Here are a couple more pages that suggest you're thinking of the John Lewis store in Kingston (the second one is a several-years-old article that mentions it was discovered in 1985).

Of course, when I finally looked up "undercroft," it's apparently more of a crypt than a street, so...I dunno.
posted by Gator at 4:38 PM on January 5, 2006

Best answer: During a Christmas slump-on-the-sofa booze-a-thon, I watched some "100 Greatest Christmas Moments" thing on Channel 4, which included Malcolm McLaren's The Ghosts Of Oxford Street. One of the clips showed a former Eastender running about in the basement of (i think) Selfridges, where he discovered a still-intact street that had been built over. Further Googling reveals this.

I just wish I could track down a copy of McLaren's film; I'd never seen or heard of it before it was mentioned on that programme, but it looks fantastic ...
posted by Len at 6:07 PM on January 5, 2006

No idea - but I have to comment just to mention Stephen Smith's excellent book underground london.
posted by handee at 3:26 AM on January 6, 2006

Best answer: Wow, I really want to know the answer now. cillit bang, if you find the answer while store-spelunking, I hope you'll let us know.

I was so curious I emailed Selfridges last night. Sadly, their response was, "Unfortunately, I have been unable to find out if there is a street underneath the Oxford Street store. However, our archivists may be able to assist you, they can be contacted directly on 01508 548 623. I am sorry I am unable to assist you further."
posted by Gator at 5:11 AM on January 6, 2006

Downtown Atlanta shifted everything to the second floor in the 1920's leaving an entire underground city. "Underground Atlanta" was abandoned for 40 years until the city began to redevelop the fantastic old storefronts as sort of a giant shopping mall.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:57 AM on January 6, 2006

Not an underground street, but there's obviously a lot going on under Selfridges - the terminal for the Cabinet War Rooms' secret coded telephone system were also down there.
posted by penguin pie at 9:21 AM on January 6, 2006

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