If you ever go for a stroll through the streets of Bayswater, 23-24 Leinster Gardens might appear like any other large white stucco fronted building in the exclusive area of West
But look a little closer and you will find it is merely a façade of two five-storey fake houses, which were built during the construction of the London Underground between Paddington and Bayswater in the 1860s.
The property shares the same balconies, columns and decoration as its neighbours, but has 18 blackened windows and was created while the Metropolitan Railway extension was being extended.
The train line, which now forms part of the District and Circle line, was part of the steam-hauled network on the world’s first underground railway and had been constructed using the method of ‘cut and cover’.
The rear view of 23-24 Leinster Gardens in Bayswater, West London, showing the fake properties between real houses
The Bayswater property shares the same balconies, columns and decoration as its neighbours, but has 18 blackened windows
Some of the blackened windows at the façade in West London which only appear different when they are studied closely
The rear view from Porchester Terrace of the 5ft-thick concrete wall which was fitted with a fake door and painted windows
Cut and cover, which is the oldest method of tunneling, was used in the early days of the Tube’s construction – and saw a trench excavated, shored up by walls and covered by an overhead system to support what was built on top.
The façade was established to hide a gap created when two houses were knocked down in 1868 to provide space for the locomotives to vent off fumes, which was done in an attempt to cut down on smoke within the tunnels.
But when residents complained about the sight, a 5ft-thick concrete wall was built and fitted with a fake door and painted windows. This filled in the gap and also hid the smoke let out by trains passing underneath.
Pedestrians can peer over the wall next to the cutting – if they are tall enough – on the opposite road of Porchester Terrace to watch District and Circle line trains running between Earl’s Court and Edgware Road.
The fake frontage has been a hotspot for practical jokers ever since it was built, with reports emerging in 2009 that they were targeting pizza delivery shops, leaving them dumbstruck when they reach the false houses.
The façade was built during the construction of the Metropolitan Railway in the 1860s using the method of ‘cut and cover’
The fake frontage has been a hotspot for practical jokers ever since it was built with reports emerging in 2009 that they were targeting pizza delivery shops which left drivers dumbstruck when they reach the false houses
The façade hid a gap created when two houses were knocked down to provide space for the locomotives to vent off fumes
Nowadays, Leinster Gardens has a dozen properties worth more than £1million with the most expensive at £5.8million
One incident in the 1930s saw a hoaxer make a small fortune by selling tickets for a charity ball at the terrace. Guests later realised they had been duped after turning up in full evening dress and knocking on the fake door.
Even some locals are said to be unaware of the property, with author Andrew Martin writing in his 2013 book Underground, Overground that staff at hotels either side had never realised why their neighbours were so quiet.
Nowadays, Leinster Gardens has a dozen properties worth more than £1million with the most expensive at £5.8million, although the average home value across all 140 properties on the road is £655,000.
In recent years, the façade also featured in BBC drama Sherlock in an episode called ‘His Last Vow’, which saw Sherlock Holmes and John Watson – played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman – visit the location.