This is Leinster Gardens, an upmarket residential road near Hyde Park in Central London. But though it may seem like an ordinary London street, it's hiding a rather unusual secret.
These two houses behind me, numbers 23 and 24—they're fake. They're not real buildings; they're just a facade, but with no actual house behind them.
But someone's gone to extraordinary lengths to make them look real. They perfectly match their neighbors, to the extent that you most likely wouldn't even notice if you were to walk past. The only telltale signs are the lack of door handles or letterboxes.
It's not even wooden; that's rock-solid.
And the 18 windows are all simply painted on, without any glass.
So why exactly are there a pair of fake houses right in the middle of this seemingly normal London road? It's a story that begins over 150 years ago in 1963, when the world's first underground line opened, the Metropolitan Railway.
那為什麼會有兩棟假的房子矗立在看似平凡的倫敦街頭中央？這要從 150 多年前的 1963 年開始說起，那年，大都會鐵路開通了世界上第一條地鐵。
Its tunnels were built using a method known as cut-and-cover, where rather than boring a tunnel through the ground, instead, a massive trench is dug, the railway built, and then the trench roofed over again. And as can only be expected when digging an enormously long trench right through the middle of Central London, some buildings needed to be demolished.
And five years later, when the line was extended to include a section between Paddington and Bayswater, Leinster Gardens found itself directly in the path of destruction. Numbers 23 and 24 were torn to the ground, and the earth beneath them excavated to make way for the quickly growing London underground.
And if you've gone to the street behind, you can see the trench where the houses used to be.
So, why the fake fronts?
Well, this particular stretch wouldn't be recovered. Back then, they didn't use the modern tubes we use today, but steam train's pulling wooden carriages.
And as you can imagine, all that steam had to go somewhere. The trains were fitted with a device called the condenser, which essentially held onto that steam when the train was traveling through a tunnel, and then released it once outside. It was therefore necessary to have sections of the line that weren't enclosed—out in the open air—to allow for proper ventilation.
But Leinster Gardens was a very affluent and prestigious London road, and now there was this very unsightly scar right down the middle of it. The perfect terrace of elegant Victorian houses has been starkly broken, and the posh residents weren't happy about it. And so a rather unique agreement was made. The railway company would rebuild just the fronts of the two houses they demolished.
It was win-win. The Metropolitan Railway got what it wanted: an open-air section for their trains to let off steam. And the residents no longer had to look at it, and had their pristine and uninterrupted row of ornate houses restored to its original glory.
And today, these fronts remain in place—one of the lesser-known oddities of London's weird and wonderful history.
- 「大費周章、全力以赴」- Go To Extraordinary Lengths
But someone's gone to extraordinary lengths to make them look real.