How the "global super-rich" have honeycombed London's posh neighbourhoods with sub-basements, sub-sub-basements, and sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-basements


Alderwood Manor, north of Seattle. By the way said neighbor told me he learned machining courtesy of Henry Ford’s factory (must have been around 1920) and later invented a self-loading trailer. Last I saw him he was devising a jig to polish rock into spheres.
He set the bar I duck daily.


Hijacked tunnel boring machine to redirect fatbergs.


… and not one of these too-wealthy folks has become Batman? Disappointing.


Apparently this was a ‘thing’ as long ago as the 20s and 30s.


In their defense, you’ve gotta put the foosball table somewhere.


Needs more Balrog


Well, scare them all downstairs and pave them over.



I’m sure you will look very stylish driving around! one of those Jack Chick-style Guillotine-Trikes



The pool looks a bit shallow to me.


Re: sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-basements

I believe the technical term is “bunker”.


It’s not like building an extension to your house is completely unknown among the world’s not-so-super-rich; adding a swimming pool or an extension for a bedroom or rec room, is pretty popular in American middle-class suburbia. Wanting to do that isn’t automatically a sign of plutocraticization. The only real difference is that these London properties don’t allow above-ground extensions, either because of lack of space or code restrictions, so they go down instead of out or up. These owners do happen to be wealthy, as London property is insanely expensive, so they can afford extending this way, but otherwise they seem to be doing exactly the same thing, for more-or-less the same reasons, as is common among proles elsewhere.



I think that was a flash in the pan, kind of like the middle class. We now resume our regularly scheduled programming of aristocracy flaunting their wealth while everyone else scrapes by.


Nope. Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, and Izabella Scorupco in Reign of Fire (which I thoroughly enjoyed despite critic’s ratings because it’s McConaughey being McConaughey).

In a nutshell, London diggers have unearthed a dragon cocoon and unleash hell upon the civilized world.


Exactly the same thing? From the article:

a two-storey basement with a pool, cinema, gym, wine store, steam room, salon and staff room

Then there are the discos with hydraulic dance floors, the car garages with elevators, all in underground extensions that double if not triple the total square footage of the home. Do you really think that’s the same thing as putting in a backyard swimming pool or a one-room extension like a guest room or an extra bathroom or larger kitchen?


Home theater extensions and rec room extensions are quite common in the US. Somewhere in the US somebody is probably making a single extension with all the amenities your article mentions (except maybe the staff room), and that is the particular house that would feature in the breathless American newspaper article about the similar phenomenon.

According to the article, over 4/5 of the extensions are simply 1-story basements the extent (or less) of the ground floor.

In the US it is also quite common for people to simply tear down old (and not so old) houses and put in larger ones that crowd the property lines, and again it is not the super-rich doing it. The Londoner can’t do this because of planning restrictions and relatively small lot sizes.

Of course there are also problems with what some of these people are doing, for example issues with shaking or undermining neighbor houses and displacement of ground water. And as @hecep notes above, the residents of Hobbs End have had all manner of problems.


I’m so glad you posted this. I’ve always thought this movie couldn’t possibly be all bad. Imma watch it now.


God, that movie was amazing. Also amazingly bad. But mostly amazing.

A true pre-McConnoughssence relic.


You said “exactly the same thing”. Middle-class and merely affluent people in the U.S. aren’t adding an entire basement or subbasement (or, if lot size isn’t an issue, new wing) with the same square footage as one storey of the existing home for the purpose of putting in a home theatre or indoor pool. Home theatre and rec room and gym “extensions” for those people generally amount to renovating an existing space or room (e.g. finishing a basement or converting a den), and swimming pools for the comfortable and affluent in the U.S. are outdoor additions. An additional wine store is usually the space of a closet. Add-on steam rooms and discos, above or below ground, are about as common in the U.S. (and I’d wage in Europe) as staff rooms or underground salons.

When they go to trouble to add an extension, non-plutocrat Americans usually aren’t doubling the total amount of square footage and are usually adding a leasehold improvement that truly increases the re-sale value or income potential (e.g. a bigger kitchen, en-suite bathroom for the master bedroom, mother-in-law suite).

As a side note, the middle-class and affluent Americans you’re talking about actually live in these homes and enjoy these new amenities themselves for 6+ months of the year. The oligarchs in London doing this are often absent from the property for all but a few weeks a year.

I’m sure there are instances of these London-style basements being dug and fitted out somewhere in the U.S., but it’s usually being done by ultra wealthy individuals and the activity is not concentrated or common to the extent that it is in London (not even in Manhattan or the city of San Francisco).

That’s not what’s being discussed in this article, but if a zone in the U.S. doesn’t allow for teardowns or extensions that abut the property lines the usual solution is to find a neighbourhood where it is allowed or where there are larger lots. If living in a particular neighbourhood is important enough then non-UHNWIs (and many UHNWIs) abide by the zoning restrictions instead of bypassing them, presumably because they recognise the benefits of those restrictions. What they’re not doing is digging multiple basements as a workaround.

These London basements are gross displays of conspicuous consumption, not reactions to onerous zoning regulations or amenities that substantially improve the quality of their absentee owners’ lives or the re-sale value of the home (because the next oligarch who buys it will likely tear out the fittings to make it his own).

In short, to say that what these plutocrats are doing in London is exactly what middle-class and wealthy Americans do on a regular basis in the suburbs is to normalise what has been (at least since 1945 in the West) the abnormal.