Whispering wires: The Holborn Telephone Exchange Crisis

268-270 High Holborn is an unassuming building, ignored by countless Londoners since it was built almost a century ago. Few, hurrying past in the 1920s and ’30s, would have guessed it housed central London’s foremost telecommunications hub.

But to those who chart the wayward history of London’s anchoring in space and time, 268-270 High Holborn is as famous as they come.… Read more

Aurora Orientalis: The Bow Creek Utopia

Ash Malik shouldn’t be talking to me. ‘Stuff like this makes investors nervous. Which is kind of the opposite of my job’. He is a planning officer for the council, and the stalled building site we’re on – in the eastern reaches of London’s Docklands – is testament to the challenges of the role.

There’s no shortage of new developments on the archipelago-like patches of land between Bow Creek, the Royal Docks and the Thames.… Read more

Hexalondon: The Putney Bee Man

If you were a school kid in Putney in the 1980s you will have heard of the Putney Bee Man. Playgrounds sang with tales of the local beekeeper who spoke only to bees, ate only honey, and was eventually stung to death in his hive-like home.

But there was more to the life of Joseph Henshall. And, though his story is fragmented – pieced together from TV and newspaper interviews with his former neighbours – it speaks to London as a place where seemingly immutable boundaries exist to be breached.… Read more

Out of the miasma: The Clerkenwell Attic Miracle

A shadow fell over London in 1665 – dark days that historians have sought to illuminate ever since. Samuel Pepys wrote the most famous eyewitness account of the Plague year. But it is a lesser-known diarist we turn to for evidence that amid the death and desperation that racked the city – killing up to 100,000 Londoners – an event occurred which reveals the city’s febrile dimensional nature: The Clerkenwell Attic Miracle.… Read more

Drowned lair: The Deptford Creek Necker

Faraway creatures lurk in Deptford Creek. Take a guided tour along its bed at low tide and the volunteer custodians of this fragile ecosystem will uncover Asian mitten crabs, egrets returned from Africa, and eels born in the Sargasso Sea.

But there is a stranger resident still, one most guides won’t speak of – even if, consciously or not, they steer clear of the corner of the Creek it inhabits.… Read more

Echoes in the dark: The Thames Tunnel Phantom

Gaze into the darkness between Rotherhithe and Wapping, and you might just catch a glimpse of the past. Beneath the river, pale arches flicker in the glare from the train window, a ghostly reminder that the Thames Tunnel wasn’t built for modern commuters.

Isambard’s father, Marc Brunel, pioneered the tunnelling shield to construct London’s first under river tunnel. It still took floods, deaths and twenty years to complete.… Read more

A Hampstead Horror: The Ghost House

These letters were sent to us by an American reader of the blog. He found them among the possessions of his mother, who died recently. Born in London, she had become estranged from her English family, who for several generations lived by the edge of Hampstead Heath, mainly in the same large house.

We have transcribed what was sent to us: photocopies of sections of the letters, with dates and other details left out.Read more

Mist shrouded cities: The Newcourt Continuum

The Metropolitan Police helicopter crew recently deleted a tweet. Their twitter account is followed as much for atmospheric photos of London-from-above as it is for crime fighting updates. But now it seems – for a few brief minutes – it was an unwitting source of evidence for a phenomena categorised as a multiverse infringement.

As far as we know the tweet wasn’t cached, so we make do with reports from those who saw it during its short life.… Read more

Distant Music: The Hackney Wick Bakehouse Breach

Six years have passed since the events described below. By nature, the story is difficult to confirm, but key elements make it a candidate for the catalogue.

Glenn White talks a mile a minute. We give over the remainder of this post to his (minimally edited) account:

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This was Summer, 2012. The Olympics. The purple-shirt guys everywhere. I was out around Hackney a lot because of my job.… Read more

A shadow in Georgian London: The House of Hidden Things

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens were a place to lose oneself. Laid out among Lambeth’s green fields as an escape from 17th Century London, over the following 200 years they became a virtual town in themselves, an unrivalled destination for music and theatre, drinking and bear-baiting.

But there was seclusion and shadow amid the noise. Dark, tree-lined alleys were a favourite haunt of the amorous.… Read more