When visiting London, most people flock to the famous sites such as Buckingham Palace and Big Ben; but the UK’s capital is full of little-known wonders and easily overlooked historical sites, found in hidden corners or seemingly ordinary locations. Get off the tourist track and head to some of London's more unique historical sights. Whether you’re planning on exploring the city independently, or arranging bespoke tours of the historic sites, make sure that you pay a visit to the capitals hidden historical wonders! Check out our top 5 historic sites in London that are often overlooked:
Heading to the Big Smoke? Check out our for awesome accommodation
1. TOWER SUBWAY
Tower Subway is the world’s first tube railway and the second oldest tunnel running under the Thames. This often forgotten legacy of Victorian engineering is a must see attraction for history enthusiasts visiting London and showcases Victoria engineering at its absolute best. The tunnel was constructed in 1870 and information on Historic UK states that it was completed in under a year. This is astonishing when compared to the Thames Tunnel which took 18 years to complete! Once finished, the tower subway became the world's first ever tube railway and used a cable-hailed wooden carriage to take up to 12 passengers at a time through the tunnel - which has a diameter of only 7 feet! However, due to several technical issues and lack of custom, the shuttle service stopped after three months. The tunnel was subsequently turned into a popular pedestrian walkway, used by around a million people a year, each paying half an old penny. The tower subway can be found just west of Tower Bridge, between Tower Hill on the north side of the river, and Vine Lane on the south.
2. THE FIRST RED TELEPHONE BOX
The red telephone box was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and quickly became an instantly recognisable symbol of Britain. The Phoney Box explain that Scott’s design of the telephone kiosk won a Post Office sponsored competition in 1924 and the national icon can still be found all around London today. The red telephone box is extremely popular among tourists, who often stop to take a photo of themselves next to one of the city’s signature landmarks. However the first red telephone box in the whole world, along with its wooden prototype, can be found at The Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly.
3. THE HIDDEN ROMAN BATHS
This photo is actually of the Roman Baths in Bath. Photos of this secret site are THAT hard to find
Back in the 1830’s, the owner of a little-known plunge pool began to promote it as dating from the first century ad, and almost everyone was taken in. It is questionable whether these baths are actually Roman but even if they’re not, the fact that so many people have passionately wanted them to be is now as real a part of their history as their actual origins. Historians now believe that the bath dates back to the early 17th century and is the only remaining part of a cistern that fed into Somerset House’s garden fountains but this doesn’t make them any less interesting! Hidden London warn that the Roman bath is exceptionally hard to find. To reach it you need to go halfway along Surrey Street (the bath is round the back of number 33), keeping your eyes peeled for an old National Trust sign above a gated archway.
4. CROSSBONES GARDEN
Crossbones Garden of Remembrance stands on the site of a post-medieval burial ground, which is thought to hold the remains of over 15,000 people. The iron gates surrounding Crossbones Garden are covered with flowers, ribbons, poems, and other tokens commemorating those buried. There is also a plaque honoring “The Outcast Dead.” According to tradition, this plot of ground was called the ‘Single Woman's Churchyard’ and was used as a graveyard for prostitutes from London’s first red light district. Nowadays, this beautiful garden provides a rare oasis in the middle of Southwark to remember the dead, spend time with loved ones, and contemplate one’s own mortality in a hectic urban world.
5. BRITAIN’S SMALLEST POLICE STATION
This rather strange and often overlooked world record holder can be found at the south-east corner of Trafalgar Square. Britain’s Smallest Police Station - not much bigger than a Tardis - was built by the Metropolitan Police in 1926. This tiny building is made from a hollowed out lamppost and is thought to have accommodated up to two prisoners at a time. However, its main purpose was to hold a single officer who could keep an eye out for any illegal activity, with windows giving a clear view across the whole square. Today the box is no longer used by the Police and is instead used as a broom cupboard for Westminster Council cleaners.