This is a report of an exploration of London's ancient sewers, written in 1860 by John Hollingshead. You can find more information on these underground places in the book London under London, by Richard Trench and Ellis Hillman.

The entrance to King's Scholar's Pond Main Sewer, that I decided to go down by, is close to the cab-stand at St John's Wood Chapel. The side entrance is a square brick-built shaft, having a few iron rings driven into two of its sides. These rings form the steps by which you ascend and descend, putting your feet on one as you seize hold of the other.

When the daylight was shut out, a closed lantern was put in my hand; I was led stooping along a short yellow-bricked passage, and down a few steps, as if going into a wine cellar, until I found myself standing knee-deep in the flowing sewer. Turning ourselves towards the Thames we waded for some time, in a stooping posture, through the sewer, three of my guides going on first with lanterns, and two following me. We passed through an iron tube, about three foot high and two feet broad, which conveys the sewage over the Regent's Canal, through the crown of the bridge. It was not until we got onto some lower levels, towards Baker Street, that the sewer became sufficiently large to allow us to stand upright.

At different parts of our course we passed through the blue rays of light, like moonlight, that came down from the ventilator gratings in the highway above. Under one of these we heard a boy whistling in the road, and I felt like Baron Trenck escaping from prison. Although underground, we passed over the Metropolitan Railway in the New Road, and then along the line of Baker Street, under Oxford Street, and through Berkeley Square. As we got lower down our great underground channel, the roof became higher and higher, and the sides broader and broader; but the flooring, I am sorry to say, became more jagged and uneven. The lower bricks had been washed out, leaving great holes, down which one or other of my legs kept slipping, at the hazard of my balance and my bones, We peeped up at an old red-bricked, long-disused branch sewer, under some part of Mayfair, that was almost blocked up to the roof with mountains of black, dry, earthy deposits.

In Piccadilly we went up the side entrance, just to get a mouthfull of fresh air, and a glimpse of Green Park, and then went down again to finish our journey. We had not proceeded much further in our downward course when the guides stopped short, and asked me where I supposed I was now? I thought the question quite unnecessary, as my position in the sewer was pretty evident.

'I give up', I replied.

'Well, Buckingham Palace', was the answer.

Of course my loyalty was at once excited, and, taking off my fan-tailed cap, I led the way with the National Anthem, insisting that my guides should join in the chorus.

The journey was wanting in that calmness, light and freshness which generally belongs to boat journeys, and while there was a good deal of Styx and Charon about it in imagination, there was a close unpleasant steam about it in reality.

By this time our bark had floated out of the broad archway of the sewer an arch as wide as any bridge-arch on the Regent's Canal, and we were anchored on that pea-soup-looking open creek that runs for some distance along the side of the Equitable Gas Works. The end of this creek, where it enters the Thames, is closed with tidal gates, which are watched by a kind of sewer lock-keeper, who lives in the cottage immediately over the sewer. He cultivates flowers and vegetables at the side of the channel, and his little dwelling is the model of cleanliness and tasteful arrangement.

Thanks go to Il Draino for posting this to the Infiltration list.

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