The yanks have been in London filming underground places, and the result is a fairly decent documentary.

Unlike some US-productions, it lacks the usual hyperactive puppy of a presenter bouncing around gushing about how exciting everything is — and is more of a serious history documentary.

Aimed at 12-18 year olds, it is still eminently watchable, and fronted by a good number of experts that should be recognisable to any London geek.


Narrated by Samuel West, most of it is accurate, and I am sure if the episode was broadcast on BBC4, most of us would sit down for a fairly enjoyable 40 minutes of subterranean lore.

Secrets of Underground London is due to be broadcast in the States later this year, PBS have broken the programme into cup-of-tea break sized chunks and put them online.

You can watch 2 videos, but will need to register on their website for the third or more. Seems simple enough, although where it says to leave a field blank if you are overseas, then needs to be filled in on the next page. Entering 12345 as a school zip code seems to work though.

Part 1

  • Guildhall’s Roman Amphitheatre
  • Museum of London’s bones archive
  • East Smithfields plague pits

Part 2

  • Great Fire of London
  • Chislehurst caves

Part 3

  • Thames Tunnel
  • River Fleet sewers

Part 4

  • London Underground
  • Leinster Gardens
  • Tube Map

Part 5

  • Aldwych Station — and the railway tunnel used to store the British Museum artworks
  • Cabinet war room and the Paddock bunker

Part 6

  • The London Silver Vaults
  • British Library

Part 7

  • British museum vaults currently under construction
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  1. Simon

    Good spot! I couldn’t sign up (kept getting error messages) but then discovered that deleting the PBS cookie on your computer after every two downloads allows you to download two more each time.

  2. Mike Jordan

    Well done Simon.
    I signed up with ever-so ficticious details and managed to download all. Maybe the cookie way is easier.
    Then, after much fedangling with Windows mediaconverter joined all the segments together (as a DVD but one can always sort that by re-naming the VOB files as mp4s)
    Now to find time to view it all.
    By the way, even though it is publicising another’s site, try this for an amazing now/then video of Londontown

  3. Pat

    Secrets of Underground London is a fascinating series, and might be made more complete if accompanied by a review of the history of ancient goths & Saxon tribes who also lived in dugouts underground.

    It provokes the query of why mankind built up, not under ground for condo housing in dense cities. However, in the big picture, the premise that people should spend their lives underground rather than above ground tends to be an alien concept for most moderns in the realization that after death, most people are placed underground for eternity. It is a unique perspective, after all.

    Labor underground in such facilities brings up the same queer sentiments never made public, and apparently never questioned for its propriety in traditional customs. Are we not missing the broad view of reality and what it means to be human? There are many animals, after all, who burrow, and live underground.

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