Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Dead Man's Hole

London The Unfinished City
Dead Man's Hole.

Beneath the northern end of Tower Bridge is a small tiled alcove that many people walk by without even noticing. Those that do stop to look at this unassuming hollow have no idea about its macabre history, or why it is there.

During the construction of Tower Bridge, in 1886, the alcove was created and finished in white shiny tiles, in sharp contrast to the stone and cobbles that covered the rest of the bridge. 

London The Unfinished City
Steps leading from Dead Man's Hole into the River Thames.

Steps were added that went down into the dark waters of the River Thames. It was from these stairs that bodies would be fished from the River Thames.

Many bodies that entered the river, either murder victims, suicides, or unfortunates who had drowned in the waters were fished out by men using poles with a hook attached to the end.

London The Unfinished City
A pole used to fish bodies from the River Thames.

The bodies were then placed on display in the tiled alcove so that family and friends could identify the corpses. 

Because some bodies could remain unidentified for long periods, it wasn't uncommon for bodies to explode, because of gases building up in the corpse. Hence the white tiles which were easier to wipe clean than bricks and mortar.

It is said that those that were executed at His Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London were also placed in Dead Man's Hole.

So, the next time you pass the northern end of Tower Bridge take a moment to look at this unusual piece of Victorian London, which, thankfully, is no longer used..

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