London is built on layers of its own past. Occasionally they poke through to the present, like the old Roman walls and the Temple of Mithras. Now two current construction projects have revealed glimpses of the city’s previous epochs.
Work to build a leisure center at Elephant and Castle has uncovered some 500 medieval skeletons, the London Evening Standard reports. They were interred in 25 crypts. It appears they were relocated into the crypts in 1875 to accommodate a widening of the road but date as far back as the early 14th century. Now new construction dictates they’ll have to be reinterred again. Not even the dead get to rest long in London!
Another project creating a new tunnel for Crossrail at Plumstead has uncovered a much older transport system, the BBC reports. Archaeologists believe timbers they’ve discovered at the site are part of a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age trackway.
These wooden roads were used to ease travel across rough areas, especially wetlands. Similar trackways have been found in many locations in the UK and continental Europe. The odd thing about this one is that it runs along the same route as the new Crossrail route.
One great place to explore London’s history is the Museum of London. The British Museum has good galleries about prehistoric, Roman and Medieval England. The Crossrail Visitor Information Centre also has an archaeology exhibit until October 27 showing off some of their discoveries. The finds range from the prehistoric to the Industrial Revolution, although these latest finds are still being analyzed and will not be on display.
[Image of 15th century funeral procession at the Old St. Paul’s cathedral courtesy Project Gutenberg]
A London Tube station that hasn’t been used for more than half a century may become the city’s newest attraction, the BBC reports.
Brompton Road station on the Piccadilly Line closed in 1934 because it was underused. During World War II, it served as the headquarters of the Royal Artillery’s anti-aircraft operations. The station has changed little since then, with much of the wartime equipment and signage still there. There’s even a vintage map of London still hanging on the wall.
Now The Old London Underground Company is going through the process of renting the site, which is still owned by the Ministry of Defense. It plans to preserve part of it for its historical importance while adding a restaurant to the roof and climbing walls to the drop shafts.
So-called “ghost stations” are objects of fascination for some Londoners. There are more than 20 of them and you can occasionally catch a glimpse of one if you look at the right moment on the right line. One good online guide is the appropriately named London’s Abandoned Tube Stations website. Their Brompton Road section has some cool photos and there’s also a spooky virtual tour courtesy Zodiac Blue here.
While the deal hasn’t been finalized, the company has announced its intention to develop more ghost stations.
Transport for London is responsible for the arduous task of getting millions of Londoners around this giant city every day. Besides the Tube, bus, and Docklands Light Rail, they’ve added a new service–public bicycles.
Similar to public bike programs in other cities, people can get a bike at one of the self-service docking stations. You don’t have to be a UK resident to use one, but residents can buy an annual membership and get discounts. You can pay by cash, card, or online. You have to pay for an access fee as well as the bike itself. If, for example, you are in London for a day, you can buy a day’s access for £1 ($1.56) and hire the bike for up to six hours for £35 ($55), or a full day for £50 ($78). That’s expensive, but it wouldn’t take many taxi rides to equal that.
Actually the program is more designed for short rides. Journeys under half an hour are free and an hour only costs £1. You can cycle pretty much anywhere in central London in an hour. Users should be aware that London traffic is very busy and people who aren’t accustomed to cycling in big cities should probably give this a miss. The scheme is partially funded by Barclay’s bank and each bike sports an ad for Barclay’s.
The London Double Decker bus is one of the most recognizable means of transport in the world – but as passenger numbers and emissions standards grew, the iconic Routemaster buses were withdrawn from service in 2005. Updated Double Deckers remain in service, but after years of work, the City of London just revealed the newest design for the bus of the future.
Fans of the old buses will be happy to learn that the new design borrowed a lot of inspiration from the old 1950’s Routemasters, while staying well within requirements for a green and comfortable bus. Best of all – the new bus will even feature an open platform at the rear, one of the best parts of the old buses.
You’ll need to wait till 2012 to take a ride on the new bus. The new buses will carry 87 passengers and cost $433,000 each. The design comes from Heatherwick Studio who worked with Transport for London on the final design.
Of course, London wouldn’t be London without some controversy over the buses – The Mayor of London is already being accused of wasting taxpayers money on his “pet project”.