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.

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‘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.

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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.’
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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.
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24 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

  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?: https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/nickconstantinou/sets/72157633161297163/

  14. The building is listed but there is no mention of the basement in the descrption https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1065968

  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

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