London Society members listened to a sell-out talk by Nick Catford, world-renowned cameraman and one of the most accomplished subterranean photographers working today. Nick specialises in sites of cold-war, military, transport and industrial archaeological interest.Nick's book Secret Underground London is a comprehensive photographic record of a hidden world which lies beneath the capital but which is not generally seen by the public, from the disused tube stations and closed sections of the London underground railway system, to the secret central government and military bunkers. There are air raid shelters, large and small, public and private; mines and underground quarries, and tunnels of all sorts: pipe tunnels, horse tunnels, tram tunnels, service tunnels, and the tunnel under the Thames Barrier. Last but not least, the capital's creepy Victorian cemetery catacombs. Hugh Martin reports:
A large audience gathered in Southwark (courtesy of Allies & Morrison) on 6th September to hear Nick Catford give a fascinating talk about the many interesting things lurking in sub-surface London. Having been granted official access to many sites, he started with a tour, illustrated with amazing photographs, of some of the many closed underground stations, some of which can still be detected if you know when to look closely at the tunnel walls when travelling by tube. I particularly liked his story of when, having visited a long-closed station, his party boarded an ordinary train through the driver’s cab. The passengers in the first carriage were suitably astounded when about 10 people, in filthy boiler suits, emerged from the driver’s cab into the front carriage!
Other transport items included Brunel’s famous tunnel under the Thames and the Kingsway Tram Tunnel with its two stations, which I frequently used as a schoolboy. Rather more sinister were the Cold War bunkers and the Royal Observer Corps posts, many of which still survive with little indication on the surface of their presence. Catacombs under several London cemeteries provided yet another twist in the tale, and how many of us knew there were gravel and sand mines, some with large galleries, under London?
We did not have time for all the several hundred photographs Nick had brought, but many are in his book, and I hope he might be invited back for a further instalment on this intriguing subject.