We at The Holborn are both proud Londoners, lovers of great design and ingenuity and quite unashamedly railway enthusiasts. So we jumped at the chance to explore a hidden gem of London life, the abandoned Aldwych Tube station.
The station has been abandoned since 1994 upon it’s closure by TfL, it was shut due to underuse, only 490 customers a day were using the central London station when it shut its doors. By way of comparison a suburban tube station such as Colliers Wood has in excess of 8,000 people pass through it on a daily basis. Though truth be told Aldwych entire history has been blighted by underuse and oddity. The closure which was battled against for years was dealt its final deathblow when the lifts that had been installed upon it’s opening in 1907 needed replacing, at a cost of three million pounds. An unjustifiable cost for TfL.
A station which was built with the intention to transport passengers to and from the surrounding Theatres had an ill-fated start as one of the largest theatres in the area was knocked down in order to build the station. The station also found itself as a odd branch line off of Holborn due to the creation of the Piccadilly Line which was a combination of two separate projects, meeting at Holborn, Aldwych was the bit left over.
In light of current TfL disputes it is interesting to learn that Aldwych’s ticket office was shut in 1922, miniature ticket booths were installed in the lifts so a liftman could issue tickets and operate the lift at the same time. The station itself is a classic Leslie Green design. He was the architect working for the Underground Group at the start of the century and is responsible for over 35 station designs. They are all easily recognisable from the dark red glazed bricks that adorn them, supplied by the Leeds Fireclay Company.
The station has been more useful to London for a collection of other functions than it ever could be as an operating station. During the First World War the station stored over 300 precious paintings from the National Gallery. During the Blitz the station acted as an air-raid shelter. This time the V&A and British Museum stored their precious goods in the station including the Elgin Marbles which spent over eight years in the station. The unused second platform found a new post-war use as a testing pad for new designs and innovations, the platform is littered with mock-ups from other lines, the Victoria Line from the 1960s and Piccadilly line from 1980s to name but a few.
Now the station has found a new lease of life as a film set, it is likely if you have seen a tube platform in a film recently it was here. Credits include, Die Another Day, V for Vendetta, Atonement, Sherlock and most recently The Imitation Game. Below are a collection of images from our visit, enjoy, and keep an eye out on the London Transport Museum website for the next time they release tickets for tours of this most curious station.
By Morgan Hamilton-Griffin