I’ve always been intrigued by the disused Tube stations of London, so when the London Transport Museum announced they’d be running tours of Aldwych Underground station during January and February I made sure to get myself a ticket. I’ve walked past the now closed up entrance to the station on the Strand countless times and was excited to find out what was hidden behind those doors.
Originally named Stand station, it opened in 1907 and was connected to the Piccadilly line, branching off from Holborn station. In 1915 it was renamed Aldwych when the station known today as Charing Cross became Strand.
Although it had been constructed with two tunnels and platforms, the low number of commuters travelling to Aldwych meant that the eastern platform was closed from about 1914. Soon afterwards the First World War German bombing raids started and the disused platform was converted into a storage space for 300 paintings from the National Gallery. Aldwych was also used as a temporary shelter for civilians along with other deep underground stations.
Tube services returned to normal when the war ended in 1918, but then the Second World War happened and again Aldwych was used to store valuable artworks and artefacts. During the Blitz, the Tube service on the Aldwych branch was suspended and the station and tunnel were converted into a public shelter.
Train services were restored to Aldwych in 1946 but there were still only a small number of people using the branch. The station was eventually closed in 1994 when the lifts were in urgent need of replacement and the costs to keep the station running could not be justified. Since its closure Aldwych has been used for many film and TV productions including Sherlock, Mr Selfridge, V for Vendetta and 28 Weeks Later. It’s other function is as a training facility for the Underground’s Emergency Response Unit.
At the moment all of of the current and upcoming scheduled tours organised by London Transport Museum are sold out, but our Aldwych tour guide mentioned that more tours are in the works. They were very secretive about the dates and locations but if you’re interested in joining one of the Hidden London tours I recommend signing up to the London Transport Museum mailing list. You’ll be notified of upcoming events by email and subscribers get access to a pre-sale before the general public sale, so this gives you the best chance at securing tickets. These tours are quite popular and there is only a limited number of tickets available so they sell out pretty quickly.
Have you been on one of these underground tours? I’m doing a tour of Charing Cross station next month and I’m pretty excited for it!