It is the largest building project in Europe today, buried deep beneath the city of London. The great scheme for Crossrail, offering high speed links across the capital, has been a dream on planners’ desks for decades, but construction is now well under way, with tunnelling and earth-shifting machines moving slowly but inexorably, like underground monsters, from separate directions to their final meeting point. As evidence of the line surfaces behind screens in the heart of London, spectators get to gaze down into immense holes where thousands of engineers are at work.
Focussing in on key Crossrail stations – Stepney, Whitechapel, Liverpool Street, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road (alias St Giles in the Fields), and the route along Oxford Street (alias the Way to Oxford and also Tyburn) Gillian Tindall traces the route of the new line, including the thrilling archaeological obstacles it encounters, to reveal the city’s history through the events, buildings and lives of the Londoners who have witnessed change across the centuries. Crossrail is just the latest audacious scheme to have visited the ancient sites of London over hundreds of years – and Gillian Tindall is the perfect writer to describe this major transformation.