Call to action: Basements & Vaults

23 January 2012

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Roman Baths, Strand Lane. Copyright © KB Thompson.Roman Baths, Strand Lane. Copyright © KB Thompson.

I’ve just had a proper Discovering Places adventure in writing this blog post about this week’s challenge to discover basements and vaults…

It was a bright sunny day, but really cold, and as I prepared to take myself out of the office to discover my selected basement I knew that I was going to get cold.  I’d left the house with not enough layers of clothing to keep the cold out this morning, and I was facing having to leave my desk right next to the radiator!  The short distance from my office along the Strand to Surrey Street seemed to all be in shadow – my fingers went numb and I was starting to feel the cold.

Entrance to Roman Bath

I’ve walked down The Strand hundreds of times over the years and never ever turned down Surrey Street.  Today, however, I went in search of some Roman Baths hidden in a basement off Strand Lane (which is off Surrey Street).  I turned down Surrey Street and on the left was a boring modern office block, but on the right, running the length of the street, were buildings that delighted me.  I discovered the front entrance of the abandoned Aldwych Tube Station and then Norfolk Hotel with its grand iron lattice work entrance, now part of King’s College.  Then I found Surrey Steps which took me through to Strand Lane.  This felt very adventurous as it was a dark and dingey alleyway, but it emerged out onto the tiny Strand Lane.

Roman Bath alley and watchtower

First I noticed the back of what must be a chapel at King’s College – this warranted further investigation and then as I turned right up the lane I found the watch tower above and the entrance to the Roman Baths.  The baths are open by appointment only but you can push the outside light switch and look through the window to reveal the bath.  I was joined by some other passing explorers.  The light wasn’t working so we had to crouch down and peer through the glass.  I tried to take a picture but as you can see it revealed only my feet so here is the link to Wikipedia and National Trust sites and you can find out more about the basement and bath inside.

Despite the cold, my little adventure turned up many delightful finds and I met two lovely people along the way.  This was all achieved in my lunch break so I look forward to hearing what hidden delights you can discover in your lunch hour.  I’m also impressed that I’ve managed to stay above ground in my basement discovery!

Post by Claire Horan, Project Manager, Discovering Places.

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