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Report - Kingsway Telephone Exchange (Chancery Lane DS) - London, September 2013

Adders

living in a cold world
Regular User
#1
There are many sites around the world that you hear of, and never imagine you'll ever see. I imagine it's a similar feeling to those who pine after meeting their favourite pop star, or celebrity. A sense of frustration when you know others have managed to, yet you're so far from accomplishing it. It fills you with a mix of drive and jealously, and you try to work out exactly what you can do to fulfil this burning desire.

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When you first start exploring these places it could be a local industrial site, decrepit hotel, tall rooftop etc. Everyone's tastes and "hitlist" differs depending on their preference, whether it just be dereliction, a high view, or infiltration of a live space. Over the years you see more and more of these spaces, and it starts to raise the bar and you begin to crave more and more, bigger and better.

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When you start to explore the city you live in you start chipping away at the proper history that created it. Walking the streets is all well and good, but investigating the cracks that are embedded in the city gives you a deeper understanding of what makes it tick.

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This particular location came into existence as a result of World War 2. London was under attack, and the populace had little or no protection from the relentless bombardment it faced. The government attempted to tackle this by driving deep level shelters underneath a number of London Underground stations on the Northern and Central lines. In total 8 were created, although not many of them actually fulfilled their purpose as an air raid shelter, and found themselves being used for communications and war-command posts.

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The Chancery Lane Deep Shelter was built between 1940-42, and was initially used as a hostel for troops, and also housed undercover departments relating to MI6 and GCHQ operations.

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Post-war the shelter became property of the Home Office who commissioned it to be refit and kitted into a communications exchange for the GPO. These works were completed in 1952, and the exchange was fully operational by 1954.

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The trunk exchange was used for the next 50 years before technology had made the complex dated and infeasible. The permanent staff were removed, and the tunnels were given "care and maintenance" status before being completely decommissioned and offered for sale.

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Stories started emerging of people getting into the complex, and the odd photograph surfaced teasing the world to the hidden delights. I knew this was somewhere I needed to see, and after years of pining after it's northern sibling Anchor Exchange whilst living in Birmingham this had to happen.

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Trying to work out a way into a tunnel system 200 foot below street level isn't easy.

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It took a drunken conversation in a pub, and a 20 minute walk in the rain to gear up, followed by some waiting in the shadows before Space Invader, Wevsky, Obscurity and I could get in.

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Each ladder we climbed down sent chills down my spine, the hairs raised on my bare arms from a mix of cold rain water and an apprehensive excitement I simply couldn't contain.

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We spent two trips exploring the tunnels along with any nook and cranny we could find. Part of the modernisation works by BT created 4 further avenues leading off the South Tunnel. These then led into the deep level BT network that stretches underneath a large part of London. These however, aren't accessible.

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It was an eerie atmosphere walking around the tunnels. There was no need for any torchlight as the lights are still powered and sporadically working. Towards the north west corner of the complex the shrill noise of a loose fanbelt on one of the generators creates a scarily alarm-like noise.

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But apart from the odd rumble from tube trains running above, and the buzzing of instrument panels the complex is silent. You feel guilty for closing a door carelessly, and send a sharp bang resonating through the tunnels.

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It must have been weird working in an enclosed, isolated and pretty sterile space. The complex includes a fully kitted kitchen with two canteens and a bar. You might be forgiven for forgetting you're deep under the City pavements. But not for long.

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It's a largely momentous feeling when you visit somewhere for the first time. But when it's somewhere that you never imagined you'd see, you feel nervous when leaving. Nervous that you'll maybe never visit anywhere so sublime and captivating. Nervous that now you've met this famed celebrity, everything else will feel second rate.

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Or maybe that's all complete bollocks. This hobby/lifestyle/whateveryouwanttocall it confronts you with some incredible experiences. Most of which are one offs. And at the end of the day that's what you remember, and that's what counts. Not the hypothetical "hitlist".

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I bet you're glad you read this nonsense.

First and last photos taken on Kodak Portra 160, on a Lubitel TLR.​
 

Seffy

Bally up!
Regular User
#2
That write up is spot on mate. I think I vaguely remember that discussion in the pub, if it's the night I'm thinking of. We pissed off to do something else that night. Glad I got to see this in the end though.

Really sweet photos to boot too!
 

slayaaaa

28DL Regular User
Regular User
#11
Nice one mate, crazy to think this is beneath London, I tend to be up top and further up when out and about. Just the contrast is stunning. I'd never even heard of these tunnels but they sound and look fricking epic, maybe one day haha :D

Loved your write up and your pics. Crazy it's all lit up like that with everything buzzing about down there and the history is pretty interesting. Glad you got something like that explored as it seems it meant a lot to you, thanks for sharing. :)
 

obscurity

Flaxenation of the G!!!
Regular User
#14
nice write up mate and was a good explore. Certainly made us jump to discover that the big switch was not for the lights hahaha. :thumb Photos are spot on!!
 

Oxygen Thief

Admin
Staff member
Admin
#15
Some good pictures there. Did you see the 'Royal Mint' door?

Shame one of the last people in, the idiot Garrett, had to whore it out for money as usual.
 

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