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For Sale: Underground Secret Lair
October 17, 2008 3:51 AM   Subscribe

In the 1940's the British Government set about creating eight deep level shelters underneath central London. Now, one of them is up for sale (Photos)
posted by vacapinta (42 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have never felt so poor as I'm doing right now.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:14 AM on October 17, 2008


Awesome - that's round the corner from my office.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:16 AM on October 17, 2008


Really cool if you like artificial light. And you have a billion pounds.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:17 AM on October 17, 2008


I wonder if it has Deep Crows included?
posted by Inkoate at 4:26 AM on October 17, 2008


I assume the buyer must demonstrate the ability to move his pinky to his lips?

Is ownership of a cat included?
posted by DreamerFi at 4:32 AM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


It looks like where the cast of Starlight Express went to get "in character."
posted by Pollomacho at 4:46 AM on October 17, 2008


I'm assuming this has nothing to do with the previous thread, something about the irrational fear of death.

Death does not scare me
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:51 AM on October 17, 2008


Erm... apparently my grandfather used to have control over that place. Strangely, I'd always thought it was under Kings Cross not under Kingsway. I'll have to double check with him to see if there are two of them. I'm seeing him tonight, so I'll ask him then.

Hell, there's a fair chance I've been down in it, but I would have been about 4 at the time...
posted by twine42 at 4:53 AM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


From the comments on the "up for sale" link:

I am definitely interested in purchasing this complex, would be ideal location for my next venture.

Lex Luther, Sydney,

posted by TedW at 5:13 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great. Just great. So, thanks a lot, asshole.

First I go through all this trouble of tanking the world economy (took much longer than anticipated), beating back the arguments against global warming insuring we reach the tipping point ahead of schedule and with no chance of stopping in any time-frame that matters, trying to un-leashing the secret small-pox stash the Russians had been hiding in the woods (the tops on those little virus bottles are a bitch) and hacking into the secret death-ray satellite North Korean/China have in orbit over Washington DC so I can perpetuate an attack the US will assume comes from Russia prompting nuclear nukular retaliation- I go through all this trouble to unleash end-times quality chaos on the world while I hide out in my underground lair while buoyed on a cloud of Pouilly Fuissey, caviar and Belgian chocolate and the companionship of a fluffy white cat - and you go and GIVE OUT MY SECRET FUCKING ADDRESS! Thanks Internet!
posted by From Bklyn at 5:17 AM on October 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


The mercury arc rectifier looks rather forbidding.
posted by jouke at 5:31 AM on October 17, 2008


During WWII, my grandfather worked for the British Post Office as an engineer, primarily for their electronics and radio division. As a result of his job and his particular engineering skills, he was one of those who stayed in London throughout the Blitz, often using the tunnels / postal railroad that the post had created for delivering the mail underground to these shelters, as well as all the major government buildings.

He actually mentioned going to one of these places, where Eisenhower and Churchill would meet during the war... as well as to Bletchley Park, where he met people such as Alan Turing.

He was probably best known for playing radio games with the German pilots, who would navigate to targets based on triangulation from stations based in occupied Europe. His group would counter this method of finding the target by taking the German broadcasts and beaming them right back at them from very precise locations, throwing off their navigation equipment.

He also oversaw the creation of a team of mobile vans that would roam Britain, trying to determine the location of receivers / transmissions of enemy spies. Oddly enough, after the war, this idea was converted into mobile vans that would make sure that you were paying your television license fees.
posted by markkraft at 5:57 AM on October 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


The mercury arc rectifier looks rather forbidding.

Oh yes, there's more! Which links to more!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:58 AM on October 17, 2008


From my second link, photos of the entrance!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:00 AM on October 17, 2008


Wow, I want this.

How much does every MeFi member need to pitch in for the best meetup venue ever?
posted by rokusan at 6:01 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


How much does every MeFi member need to pitch in for the best meetup venue ever?

The secret password is Pancakes.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:03 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh wow. I bet serving a foreclosure notice on that place would be interesting.
posted by davemee at 6:03 AM on October 17, 2008


Wow, they sprung for snooker tables. If I was planning a subterranean post-apocalyptic habitat, I'd go for regular-sized pool tables, not gigantic snooker tables. You wouldn't have to excavate quite as much to make room for them, and the place wouldn't feel as cramped.
posted by Eideteker at 6:15 AM on October 17, 2008


Mutant! Buy this!
posted by chillmost at 6:20 AM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


For 77,000 square feet of space? Under Central London? Only £5 million? Damn, that's cheap! In December 2007, £100,000 would buy you 43.5 square feet of luxury condo. In October 2006, the going rate was £1,200 per square foot.

Granted, the real estate market has fallen a bit since then (although, not so much as to make a great difference). And it's 100 ft underground. But data and archival files don't care. At £5,000,000, it's an absolute bargain. If you've got the money, put in a bid. Seriously.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:27 AM on October 17, 2008


Looks like a perfect place to store some mojo.
posted by scarello at 6:28 AM on October 17, 2008


All joking aside: Osama bin Laden (for an easy example) happens to come from a particularly wealthy family, and have a great amount of personal wealth. What would stop someone like him (not him, I think his assets are frozen, and either way no one would sell it to him) from buying this land outright, and then later just caving in a whole huge amount of London?

I know this is improbable, and I'm sure that MI5 would do a background check and all, but hypothetically speaking, there wouldn't be much to stop it until it was too late, right? Or am I not thinking of something?
posted by paisley henosis at 6:50 AM on October 17, 2008


Or am I not thinking of something?

MI5 buying one of the buildings above and spying on you?
posted by fullerine at 7:01 AM on October 17, 2008


No Tardis to call home with?
posted by buzzman at 7:14 AM on October 17, 2008


MetaFilter, helping aspiring masterminds since 1998.
posted by Vindaloo at 7:24 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did the Muggles find the Ministry?!
posted by Tehanu at 8:18 AM on October 17, 2008


Not the Cmaden one? I bet you could house yuppies in there and make a mint.
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on October 17, 2008


Imagine if it was needed.
Logan runs from Fry's history.
posted by Mblue at 8:41 AM on October 17, 2008


Seriously, MeFi Timeshare. I'm in for $100. Which I think now comes to about... £12. Who's with me?
posted by patrick rhett at 8:51 AM on October 17, 2008


From the second link:

...each installation would accommodate 9,600. This capacity was later reduced to 8,000 as a result of improved accommodation standards.

Too bad about you other 1,600 who were thus OUT of an accommodation.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:12 AM on October 17, 2008


The place is an absolute steal with respect to square footage but if this is anything like the WW2 structures I'm familiar with its probably a massive liability. That said, with property in London you're not paying for the structure, you're paying for the space. I'd like to see this place 10 years from now.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:18 AM on October 17, 2008


If it's being sold on auction, isn't it a bit premature to call it cheap? If it's worth more than £5M, I expect that more than one person is likely to realize it.
posted by CaseyB at 9:28 AM on October 17, 2008


I love reading about tunnels. Thank you.
posted by yoHighness at 9:28 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see this place 10 years from now.
If the last few years have taught us anything, it's that today's rough neighborhood can become tomorrow's upscale urban residential experience. One hundred feet of earth and city underworkings is probably not sufficient protection from gentrification.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 9:36 AM on October 17, 2008


All joking aside: Osama bin Laden (for an easy example) happens to come from a particularly wealthy family, and have a great amount of personal wealth. What would stop someone like him (not him, I think his assets are frozen, and either way no one would sell it to him) from buying this land outright, and then later just caving in a whole huge amount of London?

I dunno, I think if you're thinking of devastating London, your time and effort is better spent on other stuff (chemical attack on the tube, suicide bombing public transport, etc). Think of the amount of explosives you'd need to properly collapse a nuclear war bunker. Plus, I don't think it would "cave in" a huge amount of London. Some buildings would subside, it's not like everything would fall into a massive pit.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:49 AM on October 17, 2008


Minor point - These are actually WWII era bunkers for use during conventional bombing, I;m not sure any of them got refitted as nuclear bunkers. Mostly they got used to store boxes after the war.

(IIRC the bunkers for use during a nuclear war got sold off a few years back)
posted by Artw at 9:59 AM on October 17, 2008


I'd like to see this place 10 years from now.

Fair enough, but let me warn you that if you intend to time travel in London ... do not accidentally end up in A.D. 802,701, do not investigate any 'underground bunkers' and if you should happen not to follow the preceding advice, do not dine with the locals.
posted by duncan42 at 10:14 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is sort of weird to see my dream up for sale, and sort of depressing that my dreams are way out of my price range. Now I'll probably never get to build that underground party bunker.

If there is an FPP later today about retrofitted lighthouses being sold for two hundred dollars, that would balance things out.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 10:20 AM on October 17, 2008


I want some organization to buy this and make it into an arts co-op, if only because that may be my only chance of ever being inside it.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:46 AM on October 17, 2008


Wouldn't the light be terrible?
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:46 AM on October 17, 2008


Seriously, this is fuckin awesome. I'm sure we London Mefites could work something out - that's a lot of space we could share!
posted by goo at 12:56 PM on October 17, 2008


Right guys... I spoke to my grandfather. The following may be a little garbled because my grandmother is currently in hospital with a broken hip and neither he or I were desperately focused. See the things I do for you? :)

He was surprised at the mention of a site at Chancery Lane because it's directly underneath the old PRO site and he'd never heard of it. He's also kind of surprised because he thought that all the deep shelter bunkers were on the Northern Line.

There are two reasons it surprised him so much - firstly he used to be the keeper of the PRO (and was keeper as they moved from Chancery Lane to Kew). Secondly, one of his jobs as a more junior staff member was to visit and inspect the PRO deep shelter sites.

To his knowledge, the sites they had were deep shelters under Clapham (he said Clapham Junction, but that doesn't appear to be a tube station), Goodge Street and (I think) Camden Town.

Unlike the Chancery Lane one described here, the other three sites were accessed via a very plain looking elevator on the above ground part of the station. The lift was secured with either a padlock or a door lock (he couldn't recall which) and then took you straight down what felt like miles. The deep shelters were significantly below the existing Northern Line tunnels and apparently made him feel very uncomfortable with their depth and issolation.

The only files that got stored in these were the relatively recent files, which survived the experience incredibly well. There was little or now damp in the shelters and the air circulators kept the air fresh.

The files in these stores stayed there until the storage was deemed too limiting. Apparently they where storing paper at a rate of a shelving mile per year. At that point the deep shelters were vacated by the PRO and all the documents were shipped off to 'Arlington' (which is presumably "Harlington" or ROF Hayes).

They all stayed there until Kew was ready to be restocked - a task which fell to him to organise. He hated the idea of Kew as it was so close to the river and no-one would promise that the basement was waterproof, so he put a blanket ban on any records going down in the basement. Of course, after 24 years I'm guessing those 24 miles of records have probably crept down there.

Of course, all of that is rather irrelevant seeing as how he has no knowledge of the Chancery Lane site.

He stayed in the Air Force to help those getting demobbed get some basic school certificates, so he didn't leave the Air Force until 1946 at the earliest. After that he briefly dabbed in journalism before moving to the PRO. So, he probably joined the PRO between the time the shelters were occupied and the time they were emptied. But, and this is a big but, he believes that he was aware of all PRO deep shelter sites, which would imply that either one of the dates in the article is wrong or that the PRO closed Kingsway first and kept the others for a while longer or (and this is my favourite, although with zero evidence) that the PRO never had the Kingsway site and that it was used by someone else in the government who considered it convenient to have it listed as a PRO one.

So there we go. You can all now finish skipping my waffling and go back to reading the other comments. :)
posted by twine42 at 4:05 PM on October 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


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