In this vividly descriptive short study, Peter Ackroyd tunnels down through the geological layers of London, meeting the creatures that dwell in darkness and excavating the lore and mythology beneath the surface.
There is a Bronze Age trackway below the Isle of Dogs, Anglo-Saxon graves rest under St. Pauls, and the monastery of Whitefriars lies beneath Fleet Street. To go under London is to penetrate history, and Ackroyd's book is filled with the stories unique to this underworld: the hydraulic device used to lower bodies into the catacombs in Kensal Green cemetery; the door in the plinth of the statue of Boadicea on Westminster Bridge that leads to a huge tunnel packed with cables for gas, water, and telephone; the sulphurous fumes on the Underground's Metropolitan Line. Highly imaginative and delightfully entertaining, London Under is Ackroyd at his best.
Ackroyd's investigation into the heated depths lurking under London the Victorian sewers, tube stations, underground springs, that terrain that is "home of the devil and of holy water" fascinates in conception and falters in execution. The journalist and biographer relies too heavily on his theme of the underground as an underworld, hooking his scrupulous research into it as he digs down through London's gault clay and chalk into the "portals" of "dark matter." Ackroyd (London) offers a brisk geological, historical, and cultural survey of buried Roman roads, wells from the fourth century, canals filled with fetid gases, rivers with 48 skulls excavated, and "dead tunnels" of mole men; his take is whimsical, vibrant, and lurid, but occasionally lacking in sufficient direction and tension. Still, with characteristic obsession and stellar accompanying images, the book does home in on the breathing vitality of London's underworld "If you put your ear close to it, you can still hear the sound of the river pulsing underneath and is a "votive offering to the gods who lie beneath London."
Good summary taken from a variety of sources (credits take up 9% of the text)
Imaginative. Full of interesting and mysterious facts, which I love)