100ft below ground. It was cold. It was dark. It was haunted.

The flicker of the greasy oil lamp created unusual shadows on the walls of the low cavern. The group of 35 people all turned left and walked down further into the darkness. The sound of babies crying echoed across the whole 22 miles of underground caves. Not the ideal place to spend a Sunday, but at least it was shelter from the rain.

And shelter during World War II too.

These caves, theorised to be built by the Saxons, then the Druids and finally, the Romans started out as a mine in the mid-13th century. These caves would later become a small underground town and shelter.

The start of the tour began by showing the audience the old ticket booth to the caves. We then went to a large cavern where shows and parties were held during the 20th century. This era called the ‘60’s raves’ introduced many famous artists into the world of the man-made tunnels stretching under South-East London. Rolling Stones and so many other amazing artists made music right under our very feet!!

Next, we were taken to see the chapel where everyone during the second world war would come to seek peace and hope, pray for a better future. No matter what religion, you were all welcome here. The dome-shaped ceiling cleverly carved realistically portrayed a place of worship, with a welcoming shrine at the altar.

Our next stop were the storage rooms where all kinds of grenades, bombshells, missiles and other inflammable weaponry were kept. The caves were ideal as shelters during World War II because of its mysterious ability to retain the damp.

We were then walked along several wider tunnels into the dormitories where everyone slept. These were large open alcoves with bunk beds pushed together along the two sides. Each bunk had three beds vertically and around 20 ran along one side of the room. In the olden days the bed frames would’ve been made of metal.

We then got to the haunted caves and that is a whole other story. After exploring and listening to the intelligent and wise guide about the interestingly deep history this particular section held, everyone was left enthralled and almost as if they were in a trance.

To find out why this part of the caves were labelled as ‘haunted’, I’m afraid, you shall have to visit yourself…

-By Sanchana Hiththatiyage