This week’s venture out for the London Shoes website posting, was short & sweet, but one that provides a typical example of the more unusual and quirky historic landmarks scattered across this metropolis.
The subject matter is all about the “fake houses” of Leinster Gardens, Bayswater W2 – and an interesting little topic it is too.
Leinster Gardens is a tree lined street located in the heart of the posh and affluent part of Bayswater – just a few minutes walk north of Hyde Park.
Its massive white 5 storey Victorian houses were built around the 1840’s – and the majority of these properties still have their original architectural features such as Corinthian pillars, large front porches, huge front doors, balconies, sash windows, street level ornate iron railings – and as a result, most of these buildings are today granted Grade II listed status.
However – among all these listed buildings sit 2 properties at no’s 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens, which are not what they may appear to be from the outside – as they have no rooms – no ‘real’ windows – no letter boxes – no door handles…..and the 2 buildings are only 5ft in depth!!!
The reason for this is all to do with when London’s very first Underground Railway was constructed way back in the 1860’s.
When the Underground was first built, deep holes were dug throughout London’s streets to accommodate the rail tracks, and these large holes would then be covered over, creating a series of tunnels.
The rail route between Paddington and Bayswater cut right through and underneath Leinster Gardens – and the houses at no’s 23 & 24 had to be demolished to enable these early ‘steam driven’ Underground trains to ‘vent-off’ all their carboniferous steam before heading into the constructed tunnel.
Building this tunnel left an unsightly huge gap in the middle of Leinster Gardens where no’s 23 & 24 used to be – in what was a very posh and desirable street.
The local ‘toffs’ were not at all happy about this as they believed it lowered the tone of the area – and they kicked-up such a fuss, that the Metropolitan Railway Co, (the owners of the rail line), had to do something to calm the wrath of the public, some of which were very influential people.
So – in 1868 they decided to construct a ‘mock-up’ frontage of no’s 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens, so that it blended in perfectly with all the other houses in the street.
Looking at the back of these 2 ‘fake’ houses, from the vantage point of neighbouring Porchester Terrace – it provides a clear view of what’s been done, as the houses either side of no’s 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens, are structured together by a number of large steel struts and girders – and you can also see the current Underground rail tracks and tunnel entrance.
They did such a great job of building this façade, that even today there are ‘locals’ who are not even remotely aware that no’s 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens don’t actually exist.
I was told by one of the residents of Leinster Gardens that all of the local ‘take-away/home delivery’ restaurants in the area have a filter on any calls they may receive ordering food to be delivered to 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens – and over the years there have been many instances where ‘fake’ events have been promoted by wrong’uns – selling tickets to unsuspecting punters.
These ‘fake’ houses at 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens are so convincing that they have appeared prominently as a back drop in scenes from popular tv series ‘Sherlock’.
Today, the fake houses are maintained and managed by TfL (Transport for London).
So – having spent some time seeking out these 2 ‘fake’ houses, and also taking time to have a look some of the other nearby streets in Bayswater – I ambled down to the end of Leinster Gardens, into Leinster Terrace, where I stumbled upon a wonderful little pub, the “Leinster Arms” – where I happily knocked back the customary couple of ‘cheeky’ beers.
This excellent little boozer dates all the way back to 1865, when it was opened as a pub called the ‘Scotch Stores’. It has a wonderfully decorative exterior and interior, and the side of the pub leads to ‘Leinster Mews’ – a very picturesque little collection of small mews cottages.
All in all a good old day out, discovering one of the more quirkier landmarks of London’s history.
Hope you enjoy he accompanying photos.