This weeks ‘culture’ blog for inclusion on my London Shoes website – had me slaughtering the old 60+Oyster-Free Travel Card, as the subject matter in question took me as far afield as Heathrow in the west, Kentish Town in the north and the Strand down in the south.
The topic in question being – London’s “Ghost” Stations.
Now – there are numerous commercial ventures around, run by reputable London Tour Companies, who, for a ‘pony’ of your hard earned, will take you on a tour down into the subterranean world of a couple of the ‘smokes’ disused tube stations – however, my day of exploration focussed on some of the more lesser known ‘abandoned’ station buildings that were built long before the tube network as we know it today, was centralised and managed by London Transport in the 1930’s.
These old station buildings were from a time when train lines were run by independent companies – and were all built at ground level – long before technical developments, like electric traction, allowed deeper tunnels to be built, and thus an entirely type of station architectural design.
Many of the original station buildings built during the early days of train travel across London, looked a lot like country and suburban mainline stations – with architectural features such as spacious arches, decorative brick work, glass canopies, wrought iron stair rails and of course the distinctive ‘ox-blood’ coloured glazed terracotta tiling throughout their exteriors and ticket halls.
Only a handful of these ‘abandoned’ station landmarks remain today – and although some are well over 100 years old, they still stand proudly to reflect the vast wealth of London’s history that they would have experienced.
So – for my little jaunt around the ‘smoke’ for this gig, I sought out 9 of these historic sites – which I’ve summarised below:-
Is probably the most well-known of the ‘ghost’ stations, as it is a stopping-point for formal conducted tours – who, for £25 of your hard-earned, will take you inside the station and down to its disused, but still perfectly intact platforms.
Aldwych station opened in 1907 as stop on the then Great Northern Line.
In WW2 it was used as an air-raid shelter by the City’s workers, and its tunnels were used to store all the treasures from the nearby British Museum.
Apart from being a location for tour companies, it is also a much used ‘film’ set for movies requiring ‘tube’ scenes.
The station closed to the public for the last time in 1994 – and its main entrance in the Strand and its side entrance in Surrey Street, are now Grade II listed buildings.
York Road – (nr Kings Cross)
The old York Road station building stands all alone in a semi-industrial park, about half-mile north of Kings Cross station.
It was opened in 1906 as part of the Great Northern Line, which eventually became the Piccadilly tube line.
The station ceased to function in 1932
Osterley & Spring Hill – (nr Heathrow)
Opened in 1883 as a stop on the old District Railway, that serviced the west of London and beyond.
It was eventually replaced by a new Osterley station – just a little further up the line.
This station closed in 1932 following the extension of the Piccadilly tube line – and today the old station building houses a distinctive retail book shop.
South Kentish Town – (nth London)
Was a little used stop on the Great Northern Line – which opened in 1907, but closed not long after in 1924.
Its platforms were temporarily opened again during WW2 when the station was used as an air-raid shelter for the locals.
Today, this old station building is occupied by a Pawn Shop.
Down Street – (Mayfair)
Opened in 1907 and closed in 1932.
It was Winston Churchill’s own private ‘bunker’ throughout WW2.
It was bought up by private investors and today this old building now houses a retail shop.
Marlborough Road – (St.Johns Wood)
This station building first came into operation in 1868, as a stop on the Metropolitan Railway line.
However, it was only really used by passengers on their way to the nearby Lords Cricket Ground.
It finally closed in 1939, and the current St. Johns Wood station just a few yards down the Finchley Road, was specifically built to take on its footfall.
Brompton Road – (Knightsbridge)
Opened in 1906 as a stop on the Great Northern Line.
It closed in 1932, and was commissioned by the Ministry of Defence who used it as an operation centre for the Royal Artillery throughout WW2.
In 2014, it was sold off to a private housing developer – and has been converted into private dwelling flat (quite expensive I should imagine)
Mark Lane – (nr the Tower of London)
The old Mark Lane station building was one of the oldest in London.
It first opened in 1884, and was the main station servicing the Tower of London area.
It closed down in 1967 – and now Tower Hill is the main station in the area where a number individual tube lines converge.
The Mark Lane station building as a whole, no longer exists – but the structural archways of the old station entrance, are still in place – as is the stairway leading down to the old platforms (obviously now gated-off)
(I have to say – I wasn’t even aware of the existence of this station)
Highbury & Islington – (nth London)
This station building with its distinctive Victorian gothic architecture was opened in 1904.
In WW2 it was hit by a V1 flying bomb, and today, only the westbound platform entrance building exists, left abandoned.
Directly across the road from this old building, is the new step-free Highbury & Islington station, where the London Overground, and the Victoria Line now converge.
On my way back home from this exhausting trek, I dropped into the “Nell Gwynne” pub for a couple of quick ‘cheeky’ ones.
The “Nell Gwynne” is a small cosy little pub tucked away down an alleyway between the Strand and Maiden Lane.
The pub is named after Nell Gwynne (1650 –1687) who sold fruit from a stall in nearby Covent Garden, and was famous for being the long-time mistress of King Charles II.
I can’t ever recall being in a pub so dimly lit – so if you do ever visit it, then if your peeper’s aint too clever like mine, make sure you use the torch function on your moby to navigate your way around the place. Oh, and it also has an antique juke-box, that I’m sure (if I could have read them) contains some quality choons.
Hope you found this particular exploit interesting and enjoyed the accompanying photos.