Any modern city renews itself regularly, often sweeping away treasures of the past. Hidden away in odd corners of London are some wonderful and often quirky little buildings, each with a story of its own to tell.

Any comments - or a suggestion for a London secret? Please e-mail me.

Odd Buildings 1 2

Cabman’s Shelter

The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund was create in 1874 when, in the horse-drawn Hansom cabs, the cabbie sat outside in all weathers. These tiny cafés offering hot food must have been a godsend. There are 13 left now - all Listed buildings. [Is it true the cabbies motto is: ‘He was a stranger, and I took him in’?]

Temple Place WC2
Tube: Temple

The Watch House

This watch house was built overlooking the churchyard of St Sepulchre’s in the 17th century to stop grave robbers. With the only legal source of bodies for medical study being those of executed murderers, grave-robbers supplied a need for nearby St Bart's - now England’s oldest surviving hospital.

Giltspur Street EC1
Tube: St Paul’s

Police Post

The fountains in the square were installed to stop unruly political demonstrations. Before then, this police box, connected by phone to Canon Row police station, kept an eye on any crowds. Now a cleaner’s store, the light on top is not from Nelson’s HMS Victory, as some guides might tell you.

Trafalgar Square WC2
Tube: Charing Cross

Tower Subway

This small brick tower is the entrance to the second tunnel to be built under the River Thames, in 1869. It was used by 20,000 paying foot passengers a week until Tower Bridge opened in 1894. It then carried water pipes to supply hydraulic power for theatres but is now used for cable TV lines.

Tower Hill EC3
Tube: Tower Hill

York Watergate

Now 150m from the water, this was built in 1626 for the Duke of Buckingham. The gardens of his home here, York House, on the Strand backed on to the river but the building of the Embankment (as part of Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s  Victorian sewage works) left the gate stranded here high and dry.

Embankment Gardens WC2
Tube: Embankment

Turkish Baths

Built in 1895 by Henry and James Forder Nevill as a Turkish bath, on the site of an existing popular bathhouse, this ornate building is now a pizzeria. The restaurant is open from Monday to Friday only. Such baths were essential before houses had bathrooms of their own.

8 Bishopsgate Churchyard EC2
Tube: Liverpool Street