At the end of Savoy Place is a small service entrance that looks like an access point to an underground car park. It is perfectly anonymous - nothing to see here. A brief distance away is a short cul-de-sac named York Buildings that also appears similarly uninteresting. Should you decide to bypass Savoy Place and York Buildings you will fail to discover the subterranean Lower Robert Street.
Lower Robert Street lies at the heart of an area known as the Adelphi. Roughly translated from Greek as meaning brothers or siblings; the Adelphi was an 18th century development by the celebrated Adam brothers (James, John, Robert & William). The centrepiece was a grand terrace that proved to be a popular residence for the well-heeled. Constructed adjacent to the Thames on vaulted arches, it was intended that the wharves and passages below would provide warehouse space even though they were susceptible to flooding.
Historically, this stretch of land had been a desirable site to live with Parliament and royalty in close proximity. This all changed when portions of the Thames were reclaimed in the 1860s so that a proper sewage system could be installed. The arrival of the railway to the metropolis also altered the character of the neighbourhood - nearby Charing Cross Station opened in 1864. Denied access to the shore, the riverside vaults were no longer viable and quickly became the hangout for beggars, petty criminals and prostitutes.
The terrace was eventually demolished in the 1930s. The impressive (New) Adelphi Building erected in the Art Deco style now takes its place. Elements of the underground repository remain in the form of Lower Robert Street. Supposedly haunted, it is now a little used thoroughfare for black cabs and the curious. You can still observe the unfortunates along Savoy Place reminding us that homelessness has yet to be conquered.
The original Adelphi estate survives on in the surrounding street names and in a few buildings - most notably the home of the Royal Society of Arts where the cellars and tunnels have been repurposed for corporate & private events.