Urbanunderworld.co.uk – A Tribute
As histories go, the UK draining scene’s significant web presence goes back little further than the turn of the millennium. Given this short span of time, most who have been in and amongst the scene for the past few years have a good knowledge of said history. The internet however harbours an uncanny ability to lose sight of the facts and make a mockery of provenance. New faces establish themselves, older faces fade into the background, and details can become as clear as a pint of the Fleet Sewer’s finest. Those who were at the fore during the fledgling years of a community often fall victim to the internet’s legacy displacement tendencies.
Urbanunderworld.co.uk was among the first, if not the first, UK website with a majority proportion of its content dedicated to drain exploration. Having been online since 2002 under the urbanunderworld domain, and for a year or so previous to that on free hosting, the site had not been much updated since the end of 2006 and went offline at the end of 2008. Over the lifetime of the domain the exploring duo of Drainrat & Oggy furnished urbanunderworld with its wondrous content, and the importance of their contribution to an activity we enjoy so much should not to be forgotten! Not least for the fact that they continue to explore underground, but do so in a more private manner.
Drainrat & Oggy would agree that their greatest legacy is the discovery, exploration and documentation of the gargantuan storm drain which they dubbed ‘Bunker’. A mighty concrete beast, bristling with features and of spectacular scale, Bunker set the standard for modern UK storm drainage and has yet to be surpassed. Noted among the worlds finest drains by the much travelled Siologen, it is something of a rite of passage for UK drainers. In recent years Bunker’s increased internet exposure has also meant it has become popular outside of draining circles, with explorers of the more shotgun and bed-post persuasion. As well as Bunker the duo also uncovered and rightfully named other major drains across the country, drains which maintain their position as staple constituents on the list of must see UK sites. First in to Birmingham they brought us Moonwalker, Baptizer and Mistaken Identity. Breaking virgin ground again in Leeds, they uncovered Masticator and cyclops, and in Bristol their persistence paid off when they finally cracked the mighty Dreadnought. Closer to home in Manchester Oggy temporarily overcame his sewerphobia venturing into SSSI.
Drainrat was the driving force behind urbanunderworld, being from an engineering background, draining mixed his passion for underground spaces and large scale engineering with the edge of excitement and adventure that he also pursued in other activities outside of draining. He was also responsible for publishing their stories and findings online. The urbanunderworld website had two incarnations during its lifetime. In 2003 a Google search for ‘UK drain exploring’ returned few relevant results, atop the list, version1.0 of urbanunderworld provided burgeoning drain explorers with the confirmation that they were not alone in their peculiar pursuit. At that time the adult phase of my drain exploring life had seen few drains of great merit and I recall taking the photographic tour through Bunker, which featured on urbanunderworld, with eyes transfixed and mouth agape. Inspired by the website I set to work creating an interweb home from where to share our own drain adventures. Version 2.0 of urbanunderworld was a cosmetic make-over, while the ever expanding content remained as clear and accessible as always.
The other half of the urbanunderworld duo, Oggy, was a quietly confident and unassuming explorer who knew exactly what he did and did not like! What he did not like was sewage, sewers and anything pertaining to poop, he was always vehement in his aversion to such things. Always rocking the brightest of blue coats Oggy was the Dr.Watson to Drainrat’s Sherlock Holmes, a thoroughly pleasant guy and a great pleasure to explore with.
Pic. 3 – Drainrat (right) & Oggy (left) – Urban Underworld.
The departure of such a significant website deserves a tip of the hat in recognition for its role in forming UK drain exploration as we know it. Sure, drain exploration in the UK did not start with urbanunderworld, and it will not end with it, but it certainly would have been quite different without it. When I realised that the site was offline several thoughts came to mind, beyond the initial that sucks, firstly a eulogy was clearly required. I’d like to have been able to archive the site in some form, as Simon Cornwell has done with one of the earliest UK UE websites here. Unfortunately I have neither the time or resources and so for as long as some information is available we’ll have to make do with those pages indexed on the web archive here. For now the domain is being re-directed to this tribute page, so at least those seeking drains or following links to urbanunderworld will reach some relevant content. Should Drainrat decide one day that he’d like to take up the urbanunderworld mantle once more, then I’ll most gladly pass control of the domain back to where it rightly should be. Drainrat & Oggy, we salute you!