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Going Down

H.G. Wells was one smart cookie. In The Time Machine the 19th entury visionary prophesised that by the year 802,701AD humanity will have split into two parallel communities: a limp-wristed, apathetic species of pinkish fops above-ground, and a beastly, animalistic community of malicious, malignant workers below.

"Phooey," you cry. "Pure science fiction drivel."

Well, let's take Shunt, the members' bar secreted amongst the disused catacombs beneath London Bridge station. It recently closed its doors for a couple of months in preparation for a £1.2 million refurbishment of the entire labyrinth. £1.2 million. That's a lot of people enjoying their subterranean pleasures. And with an extensive, fully-functional Dickensian street scene just constructed down there for a series of Christmas events, why not just move in?

And the trend is spreading. The latest project from the team behind Hedges & Butler (that sprawling, pseudo-Victorian basement club with the most flexible licensing regulations we've ever encountered) is Lot 55, an underground car-park behind new Oxford Street that's been converted into a stretch of private road, complete with hireable rooms and mock-apartments.

Then there's the fabulously addressed Cellar Door, which, besides being amongst the most beautiful words in the English language, is little more than a cabaret bar crammed into an old, converted public lavatory.

And, there's always Public Life. But maybe it's best not to mention that place. Ever. Let's just say Wells was on to something.

H.G. Wells's The Time Machine has just been re-released in Penguin's New Red Classics imprint.

by AC
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