London's 1868 Con Job Survives Today
IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that few who take a walk along Leinster Gardens in London's cosmopolitan Bayswater, realise that when they pass numbers 23 and 24 they're actually at the site of one of the city's great con jobs.
Because behind the "front doors" to these two addresses amid the street's long rows of Victorian-era terraces, nothing exists. And the nineteen windows above them are not windows at all, just paint jobs onto the 1.5m thick facade.
It all goes back to the middle of the 1800s when The Metropolitan Railway built the world's first underground rail system in London, running at one point under the Leinster Gardens terraces.
And with the steam engines of the day needing to "vent off" built up steam in the open air at set intervals after time underground, it was necessary to tear down the terraces numbers 23 and 24 on Leinster Gardens to allow them space to do this.
But it was to the absolute horror of the residents of the-then fashionable neighbourhood, who suddenly found themselves confronted with a gaping hole amidst their plush homes, and filthy steam engines noisily "venting off" in their midst.
So they forced the Railway in 1868 to build a fake façade where numbers 23 and 24 had been taken away, and to resemble as closely as possible the other fashionable terraces. That façade's still there to this day, the main giveaway being that neither numbers 23 nor 24's "doors" have handles, doorbells or letterboxes, and the nineteen "windows" above are simply dullish-grey paint-jobs.
 THE right-hand set of the black doors on the left, and the white door behind the tree on the right, are the fake numbers 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, Bayswater; the façade's supposed windows are the grey-ish looking paint jobs. (Urban75.org)
 THIS is what's directly behind those fake facades – a rail tunnel from directly under numbers 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens with space where steam engines once "vented off." (Urban75.org)