Secret London: more streets beneath London streets

A fascinating, I think anyway, footnote to my previous post about the secret streets beneath London comes courtesy of reader Steve Lloyd.  Although it may raise more questions that it answers.

Steve worked at shoe shop Lilley & Skinner in the early 1980s and thinks the abandoned Victorian shops beneath Selfridges as seen at around 31 minutes in Malcolm McLaren’s The Ghosts of Oxford Street, may have been located in their basement. I’ll let Steve take up the story.


‘In the early 80s I was manager of Lilley & Skinner at 356-360 Oxford Street (the largest shoe store in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records). The staff entrance to the store was at the rear along Barrett Street. Here was a short driveway downhill into the building where I used to park.Also situated here was the maintenance department and adjacent was a concrete staircase which led down to several lower levels that were really no more than cellars. The lads in maintenance had told me about the ‘old street’ that was down there and took me down one day to have  to have a look.

Though of course very interesting there was not a lot to see, just a bit of old shop front under some arches and some cobbled street. The lads said that the council had put a preservation order on it and that we weren’t allowed to use the space in any way.

I found some stills from The Ghosts of Oxford Street a couple of years ago after I saw it discussed on this forum and I have to say that they are exactly how I remember the site at Lilley & Skinner.

The first is one of the arches and the second is the piece of shop front and window frame. Entering the right of the store from Oxford Street you’d go downstairs to the Mens department on the lower ground floor and then there was another department (Tall and Small) at lower lower ground floor, which was on the left hand side of the building. Our secret street was a couple of levels down from that.’
So there we go. Is this the true location of the secret street beneath Oxford Street? Does it really have a preservation order from the council? And if so, does it still exist? The site at 360 Oxford Street, incidentally, is now a branch of Forever 21.

38 responses to “Secret London: more streets beneath London streets

  1. Totally relying on you to get down there somehow, Peter.

  2. The blog by Steve Lloyd is absolutely true as I worked there at the same time it was fascinating I hope it is still there

  3. I also worked there in 1982 and also saw the underground street

  4. Robert Daly

    Hi ,i was one of the maintenance guys back then (Wathes) and did some electrical work in the old street. Indeed it is spooky

  5. It does indeed exist. I worked there in 1990 and I too saw the street. Fascinating!

  6. I worked at L&S in 1990 and I was lucky enough to see it. It was as Steve mentioned, not much – but still incredibly fascinating!

  7. Elaine Jobin (nee Webb)

    I worked there at the same time as Eileen Barlow, Steve Lloyd, Rob Daly and yes the facts are true. The filming of Malcolm McLaren’s The Ghosts of Oxford Street was filmed in these basements. It was done just after the building had been sold so you are looking about the late 1990’s.

  8. I worked in L&S in the early 70s on a Thursday night and Saturday. It was spooky in the basement as I recall anyways: the Canteen was there too.

  9. a bit late I know, but I too worked at L&S in 1979 and worked on the lower ground floor, which had a door at the back in the stockroom, which when opened revealed the street with top halves of the shops missing, cobbled stones and in parts opened up into a square area, only saw that when we dared each other to go down there…. spooky.

    • Hi Julie. I worked there for over ten years maintaining the air con. Although to be honest spent most of the time admiring the female assistants of which I am sure you were one😃

  10. seth underwood

    seth underwood- 1975-1980 mens dept. I remember the store was having a re-mod & we went behind the temp walls to take a look , fascinating & the memory has always stayed with me.

    • Janet Christodoulides nee hodges

      As a windowdresser working on and off during the 70 through to early 90 I remember the rumours but never got to see. Probably been freaked out if I had gone down there. Janet

    • Can you imagine the surprise I had finding that people were talking about this on the web and then to have a blast from the past. Hi Seth do you remember me? Lucy

  11. Paula Dunne

    I also worked in Lilley and skinner from 1991-96..
    And I still remember being brought down by myna get Mick Reddan, to see this absolutely fascinating hidden piece Of history..
    “Didn’t you know about this?” He asked as my mouth fell open once he opened a pretty ordinary door leading into this old old street..
    I was dumbstruck!!
    I remember firstly being hit with that old “London Underground” smell.
    Even now.. The memory excites me..
    To walk on those cobbles.. And touch the glass in the old Georgian Bow fronted shop windows.. The shops themselves being no bigger inside than 6ftx6..
    And little twisty steps that once curved around to somewhere now blocked up.
    If I closed my eyes I could just imaging the bustle and big dresses and windows that were once full of items..
    I m truely lucky to have had that experience..

    And what a fantastic grand store Lilley and skinner was!!!

  12. Pingback: 8 Secrets Of Oxford Street | UnilagMusic UK

  13. Would this be linked in any way to the underground ‘Little Compton Street’ that I wrote about here?:

  14. The building is listed but there is no mention of the basement in the descrption

  15. My Mum would always take me to the Lilley and Skinner shop in Oxford Street for my shoes. This would be just after the 2nd world war. I think we went upstairs o the children’s department. Am I remembering correctly, was there a scene of elves making shoes ( an automaton) and a carousel which played the Stars and Stripes?

  16. I too worked at Lilley & Skinner and remember being told that “tunnels went the whole length of Oxford St” I recall the maintenance men – one tall and one short! Trying to remember the names!
    There were area under the building that led through to storage places. All very spooky!

  17. Mary Morrison

    Reply here if you ever worked there

  18. Jayne Cleghorn Page

    I worked for Marshall & Snelgrove in Oxford Street as an apprentice hairdresser 1971/72, before it got rebuilt into Debenhams. We used to go into the tunnels below, which took you across Oxford street and were inter-connected to other stores and were very scary! We were told there were many tunnels along Oxford street.

  19. Rachel Edwards

    My grandad was manager here 70s/80s and told me about the underground street! Would love to see it

  20. Pingback: A Subterranean Mystery on Oxford Street – Nick Louras

  21. Really enjoyed steves blog I worked at lilly and skinner early 80s when steve was manager def a blast from the past

  22. Pingback: A Solution to the Oxford Street Mystery – Nick Louras

  23. Just wondering if anyone remembers my aunt May Mead who worked at L&S Oxford Street 1930s-1970s? Enjoying this post!

  24. Yep I saw it too when I was a Saturday boy in Lilley and Skinner in the 80s

  25. I’m so glad I stumbled across this blog. For anyone that worked at L&S, you might be able to answer this…I have a vintage 1920s red velvet cape with a Lilley & Skinner label in it. The label also states ‘Oxford St W1’. I would LOVE to know more about this item as after extensive research I cannot find anything at all about L&S manufacturing these capes. Maybe they were worn by staff? I have no idea but would love to know more. Please email me on if you have any snippets of info! Thanks!

  26. I too worked in Lilley and skinner in the mid 1990s and was delighted to be shown this small preserved area of old London Town by my manager at the time Mick Reddan.
    It had a wonderful dickens feel to it, and a couple of bow windowed tiny shops, some still with the panels of glass in.. and a small old cobbled stairway that would’ve led to another area of this street.
    It was truely breathtaking to someone like me whole inhales history and the past.

    I’ve no doubt it’s all still there, it went on for maybe only 25 feet and disappeared into a new concrete wall. I d like to think it still existed beyond this wall under the other stores.

  27. Maralyn Julings

    Worked at Lilley and skinners left 1982 mick redden was manager of the mens department then,didn’t know anything about this wow.

  28. Well I never. I worked @ Lilley’s (8936) between 1983/84. My first job, I was 16. I remember the cellars, they were spooky, took a shower down there one morning after a night on the town. Another strange door was on the “men’s” floor in a small stock room just behind the sport section. Padlocked, never knew what was behind. The shop safe was also in another men’s floor stock room in a cellar at the back behind the Hush Puppies area. Everything was underground, the canteen, the rest room, toilets. I remember the wide corridor from the rest room to the Men’s floor where you passed the window dressers “cage”. There was cherry brandy hidden in there of which the two dressers used to share. Did I see the street, probably but maybe did not know what it was. Mick Reddan, Janet Mac, Mr. Mac, Mr. Milligan, Frank Skinner, Tony Su, Mike Duggen, Nigel Peacock, Lesley (?), Steve Floyd gosh all names from a blast of the past. Alas, I turncoat’ed and went to Barratts next door, such a let down! Mind you, I have more stories of 8936 if you wish. Probably more Hog in the Pound across the road orientated than 360 Oxford Street.


  29. Such fond memories of this place. Worked at L&S from 82 til 90’s and the old shops were accessed via a small door in one of the men’s stockrooms. You wouldn’t have thought they were big enough for shops and was originally told that they were remnants of old cells used to hold prisoners before they were taken to Tyburn to be executed.
    Anyway as we discovered the area made a great place to dispose of kimbles !!!!
    Not sure but I thought in one place you could see daylight coming through via the glass tiles in the pavement in Stratford place. This would put the level of this area about 10ft below the current level of Oxford St
    The other area in question was on the otherside of the building and indeed this was where Ron,Nigel and Rob had their office. You passed this,went down a few flights of steps and came to a long dark corridor. Off this were a couple of rooms used to store old display equipment etc.. You then went down a few more steps and on the right was the shower room and off this was the boiler room.
    Not the Hog in the Pound though but The Lamb and Flag !!


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