A Ghostly Tunnel in the Heart of London

Tomorrow is Halloween, today we are going to visit a ghost in Lower Robert Street, courtesy Robert Lordan at Rob’s London, published author, award-winning blogger, qualified London tour guide, and all-round enthusiast about the city.

Many know of the Savoy entrance ‘the only street in London where you travel on the right’ (actually, there is also one in Hammersmith), but nearby there is another even more interesting. This quiet, almost secret little road is called Lower Robert Street, which when I was coming to London in the 1960s I would use as a cut-through from the Victoria Embankment into the West End, alas it’s now one way.

Sandwiched between the Strand and Victoria Embankment and running through a twisting tunnel, Lower Robert Street is a covert cut-through we cabbies sometimes like to use if in the area and wish to make a quick exit down to Victoria Embankment.

Map showing the location and approximate path marked in red

Apart from the echo of the odd Taxi or bike courier, the archaic lane is pretty much devoid of any other traffic or people . . .

In recent years, Lower Robert Street’s grotto-like appearance has gained it a nickname: the ‘Bat Cave‘!

Going underground, the modern extension of Lower Robert Street

Lower Robert Street dates back to the late 18th century, created as a by-product of ‘The Adelphi’; a large housing development consisting of twenty-four grand, terraced houses.

The Adelphi

The project was developed by four Scottish brothers; John, Robert, James and William Adam, whose fraternal bond blessed the scheme with its name- ‘Adelphi’ being the Greek word for brothers.

Construction began in 1772, with many of the labourers who worked on the project also being Scottish.

Nowadays, of course, you’ll often hear battered radios crackling away on building sites, but when the Adelphi was being built, music for the toiling workers was provided by a group of specially employed bagpipers!

The Adelphi in later life, shortly before its demolition in the 1930s

The main building – the row of ornate houses- remained level with the Strand, jutting out over the incline.

Because it was so close to the river Thames, the Adelphi was located on a slope. To fill in the large void below, a complex of vaulted arches and subterranean streets were created- of which Lower Robert Street is now the only remaining example in practical, public use.

Vintage photo of the entrance to Lower Robert Street
Photo by: image: British History website

One other vault does exist it can be found in the rather more protected environment of the Royal Society of Arts on nearby Durham House Street.

Remaining Adelphi arches incorporated within the Royal Society
Photo by: Royal Society

Many famous people lived in the grand apartments above including the actor David Garrick, Richard D’Oyly Carte (founder of the nearby Savoy hotel), Charles Booth (the great, Victorian social reformer) and several notable literary figures including George Bernard Shaw, Sir J.M Barrie and Thomas Hardy.

The Adelphi- and in particular the subterranean lair which lurked beneath- was also mentioned in Charles Dickens’ 1850 masterpiece, David Copperfield:

I was fond of wandering about the Adelphi, because it was a mysterious place, with those dark arches. I see myself emerging one evening from some of these arches, on a little public-house close to the river, with an open space before it, where some coal-heavers were dancing; to look at whom I sat down upon a bench. I wonder what they thought of me!

In the late 1860s, much of the Thames in central London was reclaimed as part of a vast engineering program to improve the city’s sanitation, the waters pushed back as the wide Victoria Embankment was built.

Victoria Embankment under construction, 1865
Photo by: Wikipedia

This major road (which to do this day still conceals a vital sewer) was built right in front of the Adelphi’s lower vaults and roads, robbing them of their tranquil riverside location.

Once cut off from the Thames, the area beneath the Adelphi sank into decline, rapidly becoming a gloomy, foreboding place.

In line with much of Victorian London, the twisting underground roads became a haven for beggars and criminals. As one historian noted; “the most abandoned characters have often passed the night” beneath the Adelphi, “nestling upon foul straw.”

A famous image depicting the appalling conditions in which London’s Victorian poor existed. Such a sad sight would have been commonplace beneath the Adelphi.

Unsettlingly (and, perhaps unsurprisingly), Lower Robert Street, which was once an ingrained part of this depressing area, has its own resident ghost . . .

The phantom is known as ‘Poor Jenny’; a prostitute who lived and worked in the depths of Lower Robert Street, the bed upon which she languished being no more than a grotty pile of rags.

It is said that late one night, Jenny was throttled by one of her clients… today, her screams and gasps can be heard echoing through Lower Robert Street, the awful noise accompanied by a rhythmic tapping; the sound of Jenny kicking the floor as she fights against the strangulation . . .

Perhaps that’s why the powers that be choose to close the road every night between midnight and 7 am.

The exit to Lower Robert Street, located on Savoy Place

Featured image: Deep within Lower Robert Street . . . the haunt of ‘Poor Jenny’ . . .

The wrong way?

I’ve just seen a man riding a customised bike up Tottenham Court Road with two children on board, one in front of the handlebars the other as a pillion passenger, none wearing head protection, and no rear lights in the dark.

Pseudonyms and Me

The concept of anonymity has always held a special enchantment for some people, and, for others, it is purely practical. London authors J. M. Barrie, George Orwell, E. L. James and Charles Dickens all were or used pseudonyms, in fact, the literary world is full of nom de plumes.

Suspicious minds

Yet while author pen names are an accepted reality of the literary world, blogging under a pseudonym often garners criticism and suspicion.

Blogging pseudonomically is often regarded as being secretive and hiding oneself behind a shield of cowardice, whether you write polemical pieces or not.

Some of London’s most informed bloggers write anonymously. Going Underground’s Annie Mole is an underground writer in more than one sense of the word; William Wallace at London Is Cool is hardly a revolutionary bent on self-rule; as far as I know, Diamond Geezer doesn’t work in Hatton Garden; conversely the Tired of London blog is written by the real Tom Jones, while the Welsh Warbler started life with a different moniker; Scarlett London would have been very fortunate to be so named for someone writing a London lifestyle blog; Brian Pigeon flies off the odd humous piece about our avian friends; the Gentle Author lives up to his name writing with authority about Spitalfields; and your humble scribe’s pseudonymous identity Gibson Square owes its origin from the first run on The Knowledge.

Lost in space

Using a memorable name has a real impact on the blogs themselves. A blog that has built up a brand name will normally be easier to find if you search online for that brand, but difficult to find if you search for the human name of the writer, who could forget Annie Mole rather than Mecca Ibrahim?

Depending on your desire to write publicly will determine whether you disclose your real name. Looking through Feedspot’s ‘Top 100 London Blogs & Websites by London Bloggers in 2020’ a curious list that puts Diamond Geezer at 41, while many dormant sites are ranked higher. Of those ranked (CabbieBlog is at 66), more than 35 are ‘lifestyle’ bloggers written by young women eager to put their name out on the bloggersphere.

So why does the media always need our persona whenever they write about bloggers or surround our blog names in single quotes.

Material girls

As far as I’m concerned those using their identity do so for several reasons: to produce an income; a motivation to become ‘famous’, hence the lifestyle sites; the blog connects to another part of their lives, or they are writing to build more connections with friends or influence their boss; they can also reference their blog in conversation: “Did you like my last post?” “Did you see how many ‘likes’ I’ve accumulated?” “Just look at my blog’s ranking.”

When I’m 64

I think it must mainly be age-related, millennials are accustomed to the social media and having their lives out in cyberspace, while anyone born before the turn of the century is more reluctant to be noticed.



Annie Mole
Brian Pigeon
Diamond Geezer
Scarlett London
The Gentle Author
Tom Jones
William Wallace

London in Quotations: Charles Dickens

The appearance presented by the streets of London an hour before sunrise, on a summer’s morning, is most striking even to the few whose unfortunate pursuits of pleasure, or scarcely less unfortunate pursuits of business, cause them to be well acquainted with the scene. There is an air of cold, solitary desolation about the noiseless streets which we are accustomed to see thronged at other times by a busy, eager crowd, and over the quiet, closely-shut buildings, which throughout the day are swarming with life and bustle, that is very impressive.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Sketches by Boz

London Trivia: Heckled by a parrot

On 25 October 1961, Britain’s top satirical magazine was launched from Willie Rushton’s mothers home in Scarsdale Villas. The publication of corny text, printed on yellow paper would develop into Private Eye, which today has a circulation of over ¼ million for its bi-weekly editions. Still published in London it has been edited since 1986 by Ian Hislop and today is better known for its investigative journalism into under-reported scandals.

On 25 October 1400 Geoffrey Chaucer author of Canterbury Tales died, he was the first writer interred in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey

Cellars at The Mason’s Arms, Upper Berkeley Street were used as cells for those to be hanged at Tyburn to which there is a connecting tunnel

St Paul’s Cathedral is the fifth built on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to Diana, the first church was constructed around 604 AD

Charliatan, Dr. Bossey entertained vast crowds in Covent Garden, but decamped when heckled by who he believed to be a dissatisfied patient, in fact it was a parrot

King Charles I was the last monarch ever to enter the Chamber of The House of Commons. Today the monarch addresses Parliament in the House of Lords

William Hogarth’s Times of Day: Night shows 18th century magistrate Thomas de Veil being soaked by urine on Charing Cross Road

Pimms was invented in 1823 at 3 Poultry at the Pimm’s Oyster Rooms as an aid to digestion serving it in a small tankard known as a No. 1 Cup

London’s oldest swimming club is the Serpentine SC, founded in 1864, unusually it didn’t adopt first and second class swims

The Rocket inventor Robert Stevenson proposed the Thames Viaduct Railway a steel structure for trains to travel along the river’s centre

The majority of workers at Mortons Jam factory were of Scottish origin, this is where the famous blue & white colours of Millwall originated

The 1,800 people a year granted The Freedom of The City of London can if they should wish herd a gaggle of geese down Cheapside

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.