Leinster Gardens in Bayswater, London is a street with a twist, in so much that two of its houses don’t actually exist.
The imposing looking properties at numbers 23 & 24 are false façades, with thin air behind the 5 feet (1.5 m) thick walls – look closely and you’ll see that the windows are in fact just painted on, and the doors have no letter boxes.
I first visited the site in the 1990s, and wrote this piece in Jan 2007 about this quirky London oddity:
The Metropolitan Railway – the world’s first underground railway – began conveying passengers in 1863, with the subterranean lines constructed using a method called ‘cut and cover’.
As the name implies, this involved digging a deep hole to house the underground tracks, and then covering over the tunnel.
The route of the line between Paddington and Bayswater (opened in 1868) necessitated the demolition of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, situated on a long, upmarket terrace of five story houses, and it was decided to build a 5ft-thick facade which matched the houses either side of the break.
The ensuing gap behind the facade left a stretch of railway track open to the elements, which proved to be a handy place for passing locomotives to ‘vent’ off.
It may sound rather rude, but venting was an essential means of keeping the underground tunnels clear of smoke and steam.
The original locomotives on the Metropolitan and District Line were powered by steam, and although they were fitted with condensers, engines still needed open air stretches of track to disperse the fumes.
Here’s some more photos taken in March 2012:
Circle trains crossing behind 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens.
The ‘entrance’ to number 23 Leinster Gardens.
Seeing as I’ve had quite a few concerned emails about this, please note that adjacent Henry VIII Hotel now claims the same address and, yes, it really does exist!
Satellite view from Bing Maps showing the façade.
[Read more about these buildings and see more photos here: Dummy houses in the heart of London]
Update: In January 2014, the buildings were extensively featured in an episode of BBC TVs Sherlock Holmes series.