A Tribute To The Sewers Of London

The discovery of a giant fatberg that has been growing beneath the streets of London prompted me to pay tribute to that vast and mysterious labyrinth that exists under our capital city and to the men (and women I suppose although I’m sure the distinctive perfume would have been instantly recognizable had I ever met one,) who keep the water and “other stuff” flowing. In fact someone wrote a song about them once, and I can’t do better than to reproduce the lyric. A few notes for non – British readers: Covent Garden is the site of the old fruit and vegetable maket; Billingsgate is the name of London’s wholesale fish market. Hatton garden is the diamond centre, Bow a low rent district and Clerkenwell much more upmarket. Oh and St. James’ Park is near the Royal Palaces.


When you’re working in the dark…. Down below,
Underneath St James’s park … Down below,
When you’re working in the dark, oh it isn’t half a lark,
When you’re working in the dark …. Down below,

It isn’t hard to tell …. Down Below,
If it’s Bow or Clerkenwell …. Down below
For Bow and Clerkenwell have a different sort of smell,
And we knows them very well …. Down below,

Over Covent Garden way , …. Down Below,
In the merry month of May, …. Down below,
The fragrance of the flowers, gives us many happy hours,
And we sing a roundelay, …. Down below,

The objects that we find …. Down below,
Help to entertain the mind, …. Down Below
There are watches that won’t wind, wrapped up in bacon rind,
And worse things that you find,…. Down below,

When you’re under Floral Street, …. Down Below,
With the water round you’re feet , …. Down below
Mid the cabbages and beet you may find a marguerite,
And the thought is very sweet, … Down Below

Hatton Garden is a spot , ….Down Below,
That we like to go a lot, …. Down below,
Since a bloke in Leather lane ,dropped a diamond down a drain,
We’ve been waiting …. But in vain , …. Down below,

When to billingsgate we come, …. Down below,
When to billingsgate we come, …. Down below,
When to billingsgate we come, You can tell it by the hum,
And we wish we hadn’t come, …. Down below,

There is something in a sewer, …. Down below
That has a strange allure, ….Down below,
The magic of the drain, is a thing you can’t explain,
But it’s calling us again, …. Down below.

The Stanley Holloway version – written by Sidney Carter.


Fatberg rises – image source: nathanwright.com

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