23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, Bayswater - not much room inside!


23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, Bayswater - not much room inside!

23 and 24 Leinster Gardens in Bayswater, central London, may look very grand desirable houses to live in, but it's all a facade. Literally, they are clever fakes — built in the 19th century to hide the train tracks of the Metropolitan Railway that run beneath them.

The Metropolitan Railway - the world's first purpose-built commuter railway - began conveying passengers in 1863. Most of the line was above ground, but to reach central London, a subterranean section was built using a method called 'cut and cover'. As the name implies, this involved digging a deep trench to house the railway tracks, and then covering over the trench to form a tunnel.

The route of the line between Paddington and Bayswater (which opened in 1868) required the demolition of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, part of a long, upmarket terrace of five storey houses. It was decided to build a 5ft-thick replacement facade to match the houses either side of the break.

The ensuing gap behind the facade left a stretch of uncovered railway track open to the elements, which proved to be a handy place for the passing steam locomotives to 'vent' off their fumes, which was not a good idea in the tunnels themselves.

The facade includes 18 windows, and front doors with no letter boxes, and is now maintained by Transport for London .

Unsurprisingly, there's a long tradition of pranksters sending pizza deliveries, and calling taxi cabs to pick up passengers at the address.

A famous hoax in the 1930s saw a cheeky fraudster make a small fortune by selling 10 guinea tickets for a charity ball at Leinster Gardens. It was only when the excited guests - in full evening dress - knocked on the fake door they realised they had been duped.

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