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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Other blog posts you might like:
- The Northern Line tunnel – bombed and flooded in 1940 – and still sealed shut
- Photos from inside the Crossrail station at Canary Wharf
- Walking through an abandoned train tunnel under London’s Docks
- South London’s Abandoned Tube Tunnel
- A Tunnel Deep Under Trafalgar Square
- Brunel’s Thames Tunnel Open to the Public
Other people who have gone to this open weekend