Somerset House has long been running short tours of the building which can take you down underneath the main forecourt into the deadhouse — but now they have added a new tour which offers a bit more.
The new tours are only on Tuesdays, which is a bit restrictive for most people working in London, but they do include one of my favourite bits of little-known-London to see.
The new tour explores the history of the site before the current building existed, which was once the home of three Catholic queens; Anne of Denmark, Henrietta Maria and Catherine of Braganza and played a vital part in the crisis of the Stuart dynasty.
However, a special highlight of the tour sees you leave the estate and head across the road for fairly rare access to the Strand Lane Baths.
It has always been possible to go inside the Strand Lane Baths, but only by prior agreement with the council who hold the keys. To be able to just turn up and go inside is quite new.
As I have mentioned in the past, it’s not a huge venue, and the attribution to it being a Roman bathhouse is almost certainly wrong.
But it is one of the least known about bits of London history, mainly because it is so damn hard to find, and the effort of getting in, and the lack of widespread knowledge makes it one of my favourite “secrets” in London.
The tours take place at 1:15pm and 2:45pm each Tuesday.
Tickets are available, on the day only, from the Information Desk.