Tuesday 14 February 2012

A Roman Bath in the middle of London - Strange Locations!

Loyal readers of my humble little blog will recall that I have written in the past about a strange location in the heart of London that few people know about. The last time I wrote about this location on my blog I didn't have a camera or phone to take any pictures. Added to this, many people have asked me where this Roman Bath is located.

Your starting point is the Strand. You can reach this by walking from Picadilly Circus or Charring Cross - Charring Cross being closer.  Turn right on to Surrey Street. Not far down you will see Aldwych tube station which opened in 1907 but closed in 1994. The first thing you will notice is that as you walk down Surrey Street the noise, hustle and bustle of the Strand is left behind. Apart from the odd student from the nearby Kings College you will have the place to yourself.

Aldwych Tube. Used for film and TV now.

Continue past the disused tube station and carry on until you see a black mesh metal gate. It does look as if it is a place you aren't allowed to go but the general public is at liberty to wander down. (I'd better point out that this gate is rarely, if ever open during the weekend or public holidays as far as I am aware).

Although it doesn't look like it, you can walk through these gates.

Once through the gate you will see a narrow passage with two bollards ahead. Carry straight on. The bollards are there as there is a staircase (Surrey Steps) down to Strand Lane. They are very steep so take care.

A short but eerie passage. Imagine this when it is nightfall!

Very steep stairs.

Almost immediately in front of you will see the Strand Lane sign. Turn right and you will see a narrow alleyway not dissimilar to a certain alley in Harry Potter.

In front of you you'll see quite an old timber framed building with a walkway. Just before this on your right you will see a window with black railings around it. This is where the Roman Bath is located.

The Roman Bath is just through the arched window.

Looking through the window just can just make out what remains. There is a light switch on the wall outside however this didn't seem to work today. The window has a fair bit of condensation on it and this makes taking pictures difficult as it renders the window like a mirror.

Dickens mentions this very location in David Copperfield and frequented the bath himself. The jury is definitely out on whether this is Roman. It is certainly old and was documented in the 1700's. I'd like to take the romantic view that it is Roman.

It is also strange to think that hundreds of people walk up and down the Strand everyday and know nothing of this little oddity. I travelled there quite easily on my Brompton just before midday. I must confess that even if you could go there after dark, nothing would get me to do so. There really is an atmosphere down there and the absence of other people only magnifies this. The prospect of walking down any part of this at night makes me shudder. If you are in London and bored of the usual tourist locations, or work in London near the Strand and have time during your lunch hour, you could do worse than visit this place.

How strange to think this is in the middle of London.

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