Announced a couple of weeks ago – and sold out within a few days – today marked the first of two open weekends at the disused tube station at Aldwych.

Although only closed in 1994, it holds a special fascination for most people as it is still visible above ground, and even when open was hardly ever used so even the heaviest of tube travellers are unlikely to have been there.

It is also one of those stations that has a dual hidden history, as even when open, only one of two platforms was in use – so you have one old platform, and one even older one.

As I said tickets sold out ages ago, but you can turn up and hope there are ticket returns on the day. Unlikely, but if desperate, maybe worth a try.

There has been a bit of controversy about this tour though, as there is an explicit ban on using DSLR cameras, and it is strictly upheld. One chap had his camera confiscated when spotted using it in the ticket hall. I had a DSLR, but my flatmate kindly lent me his pocket camera, so I was still able to use that to get moderately decent photos. Cameraphones are also allowed. No idea why the ban on the DSLR exists, but I gather it is a London Underground requirement, not the museum – and they are VERY strict about it.

We were split into two groups of about 30 people each and while one group went down, ours was held upstairs for a few minutes while a guide whispered a few comments about the station history.

I wont recount the history of the station – as it is amply told elsewhere.

Anyway, time to head down the stairs — we were slightly patronisingly told how to walk down stairs — and at the bottom a chance to peer through the bottom of the lift shafts before

The bottom of one of 3 lift shafts

Hurried on by the guides who were keeping the back of the group together and it was down to the main platform that was used by passengers when the station was open.

Long corridor from lifts to platform

This is also where we came last year for the WW2 Blitz recreation event – and they had the restored 1938 tube train in the platform. Today though, was a former Northern Line train (a 1972 Mk1 stock) which is still run up and down the tracks to Holborn on occasions when LU use the station for training purposes.

Old train in the platform

The platform has a clean facia along one side – apparently a relic of a film crew, with Aldwych roundels. However, the roundels are using the modern font, which has the wrong sort of W in it. An original roundel was lying on the floor nearby.

A couple of talks about the station, then time for photos and off back up to the pedestrian tunnel.

And now a rare treat – a chance to go through a metal door into a much dirtier environment – the other platform that was closed in Sept 1917. Now used to test new ideas for other stations, a lot of the walls show signs of experiments with different tiling designs.

The older platform

The tracks into this platform also lack the “anti-suicide” pit that was retrofitted to other stations as it closed to the public before they were thought to be necessary.

Again about 5 minutes to take photos, and one of the locked doors was opened for a moment offering a tantalising glimpse of a passageway that was never used by the public. Ever. Sadly, too fleeting a glimpse to photograph it.

Back to the lifts, then walk up the stairs and out.

Old lift doors

For me this is a return visit to a station I have been to before, so spent more time taking photos than listening to the tour guides, and it was really good that they included the older platform as it looks more derelict and atmospheric and otherworldly. Which is exactly what you imagine it should look like.

Sadly unable to walk through the bottom of the lift shafts as the other side is remarkable.

Otherwise, a good trip – long enough to let people take the photos they need (with a small camera) without being overly fussy in the way that some tube geeks can bore with excessive detail about the history of a thing.

If you are going, do take time to wander down towards the river and look out for a side alley leading to a so-called Roman Bath. Worth a look.

More photos from today in my gallery – and from an earlier trip here.

Staircase down to the older platform

Other blog posts you might like:

Other people who have gone to this open weekend

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11 Comments

  1. Neil Paterson

    Sounds like a good tour but shame about the DSLR restriction. I have a ticket for Sunday and will be in London all day so I will have my DSLR with me, but I also plan to take a compact camera specifically for the tour.

    Will they stop me taking the DSLR into the station even though it will be staying in my backpack with no intention of using it?

    • IanVisits

      I doubt they will take your bag off you – I wasn’t stopped. It was just the person using the camera openly who got stopped.

    • Hi Ian, I was on the 10 o’ clock tour on Saturday.
      I’ve been taken apart as soon as they saw my DSLR. They were more concerned about my lens than the camera itself. No big problem really.
      I kept the camera in my bag and used the iPhone for pictures.

      Funny thing: there was a girl with an old film SLR and I think a 20mm or 50mm fixed lens and since that didn’t look “big” enough they just let her use it. :)

    • Neil Paterson

      On my tour on Sunday someone actually turned up with a tripod as well as their DSLR.

      I thought the tour itself was OK, though a little overpriced. I also went on the Blitz tour last year so it was good to see the station with the lights on and also the other platform.

  2. Matt K

    I always used to pronounce it ‘Strand’ as in band or hand, but from this day forth I shall pronounce it ‘Strahnd’ as in darned.

  3. I went on the tour on Sunday. Regarding the DSLR restriction, our guide said the “sensors are too powerful”. Utterly bizarre. From the hurried, almost frantic, pace of the tour, I suspect they feel photographers would spend too long setting themselves up with an SLR and maybe that is the real reason for the ban? However, one chap brought a 35mm SLR and was allowed to use it – after all, the ban explicitly mentions “DSLRs”. Luckily I had read your blog post before my tour (in fact it is on your wonderful site that I first found out about the tour, so many thanks for the tip off!) and opted for the trusty compact instead. I have uploaded some of my photos taken inside Aldwych station.

    • I was surprised by the fact that they allowed me to walk about with a 35m SLR camera, all the guides didn’t bat an eyelid. It seems bizarre that they banned the use of a dSLR…

  4. > I doubt they will take your bag off you – I wasn’t stopped

    That doesn’t quite square with LT museum’s account of what supposedly happened

    Someone’s being a little economical with the truth.

    • IanVisits

      That twitter comment isn’t referring to me.

  5. Really?

    So that means there were at least two people shooting inside Aldwych with a dSLR. You plus one other.

    Perhaps you should ask LT museum to clarify that comment.

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