Tunnel Vision

Its funny how when you start to research a subject some fact or unknown story gets thrown into the mix worthy of further investigation.

Yesterday’s post contained a piece about a supposed private station beneath Buckingham Palace for the Queen to use if a rapid departure was needed from central London. I had heard the story many times and in several different formats, but when checking the details before writing it down, I came across two seperate pieces of information that made me want to find out more.

There are foot tunnels under Buckingham Palace, that is a fact. Although I’ve not discovered where they actually go to and from where, but there is quite a strong rumour that one runs to nearby Clarence House. It is a fact, because none other than the Queen Mother confirmed that she had visited them. Apparently one evening in the company of her husband King George VI they descended into the basement area and followed several tunnels for some distance by torchlight. In one they apparently came across an old man with a strong Geordie accent, who according the the Queen Mum had been living in the tunnel network for years, she went on to describe the man as “Most charming and courteous“. No mention was made as to if he was allowed to stay. This sounds like a great story, but its coverage on the internet is patchy. I read about three articles, virtually all worded the same, one was from the Daily Telegraph in 2017 and the other two were Royalty Blogs, one of which stated that the information was divulged by the Queen Mother in an interview in 2006. That must have been some interview, as the Queen Mother died in 2002! The exploration part, yes I can see that happening, but the underground resident?

Queen Victoria’s undergarments sold at auction for £12,000

I suppose by definition a tunnel can get you into somewhere as well as out of a place. It seems that one of these tunnels could have been used by a notorious character during the reign of Queen Victoria. In 1838 a dirty and disheveled boy of 14 was discovered within the Marble Hall of Buckingham Palace by a porter. A chase ensued and the boy was later apprehended in nearby St James’s Street. The boy gave his name as Thomas Jones, the son of a Westminster tailor. On his person was found articles of Queen Victoria’s underwear and a regimental sword. The papers had a field day, describing Thomas as “The Boy Jones”. Initial reports say he disguised himself as a chimney sweep, but he later claimed that he had found his way into the palace through a small dirty tunnel or culvert. At trial although being apprehended with the items he was acquitted. Two years later in 1840 Jones scaled the wall in Constitution Hill and entered and left the palace undetected. In December of that year he was discovered hiding under a sofa in the Queens dressing room, again in a disheveled state. This incident was soon after the Queen had given birth to her first child, Princess Victoria. There was a clammer in the newspapers about the Queen and her young family’s security and a stronger protection force was put in place. Jones was sentenced to three months in a house of correction.

Thirteen days after his release he was found having a late evening snack in the royal apartments and despite the increased security it was not known how he entered the palace. Following a second term in gaol he was caught loitering in the vicinity of the palace and was forced to join the Navy. Despite intense questioning he never again divulged his secret way into the palace. After serving for a year he found himself in Portsmouth and jumped ship. He was detained on his way to Buckingham Palace and sent back to his ship. He was last mentioned in the newspapers in 1844, when he was rescued after going overboard between Tunis and Algiers. Jones became an alcoholic and a burglar, and later went to Australia, where he became the town crier of Perth. He died on Boxing Day 1893 in Bairnsdale, Australia, after falling off the parapet of the east side of the Mitchell River bridge while drunk and landing on his head.

Published by endean0

Hi, I'm Steve, a London tour guide and owner of A London Miscellany Tours, a guided walking tour company who specialise in small number tours of the greatest city in the world!

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