London’s Tube system has 157 years of history and many hidden secrets in the 250 miles of tunnels under the expansive metropolitan. Stations have opened, closed and been altered many times throughout the years; and the constant state of flux has frozen many stations in set time periods.
Have you ever wondered where they filmed Tube scenes for movies? When they have a track involved it’s usually either the closed platforms for Jubilee Line at Charing Cross Station for modern movie scenes or the closed Piccadilly Line extension at Aldwych Station for vintage movie scenes.
London Transport Museum has done an incredible job in mapping out the different types of tours, ensuring that each one has a different focus and feel. I’ve been on 5 different tours with them and each one was unique and fascinating. I can highly recommend booking a tour with them when you’re in London. You will have to book it in advance but it will be worth the effort.Hidden London Tickets
The tours are not always available year round, so please double check the Hidden London website for most up to date information on available dates. The more popular ones, such as Aldwych and Charing Cross, have frequently available dates. And it’s critical to book in advance as the tours with lower availability sell out very quickly.
I’ve taken 5 of the tours available over the years and here is how I would rank them, and a summary of my experiences. London Transport Museum often is updating and adding their tours to include new experiences or locations, so these are by no means a conclusive offering from Hidden London.
I’ve ranked them in order of my appreciation for each of the tours. All the tours hold a special place in my heart and each was thoroughly enjoyable. Since I’ve been on the tours they’ve also issued other variants, such as the Film Tour, for example, so this list is by no means conclusive.
1. Aldwych Station
Aldwych Station was active until the late 1990s as a single stop on a Piccadilly Line extension from Holborn. After the lift in the station broke TFL determined that it would cost more to repair it than it was worth as an operating station.
Since it’s closure it has been used as a film set for several TV shows and films, mostly period pieces that require a more vintage looking Tube station. The design is one of the traditional Leslie Green stations, with it’s gorgeous tiling and beautiful vintage motif. The history however goes back much further than it’s closure. The station was used to store and house many of the treasures from the British Museum during the Blitz.
The tour involves climbing up and down the nearly 300 stairs at the station, since the lifts are out of commission, but provides a great view into a disused tube station. It was the first station that London Transport Museum chose to open for visitors and is the longest running of their available tours.
It’s also an unusual station since it has been used to test new initiatives for the Underground – from glow tape meant to show the way out in a power cut to new insulation techniques for the tunnels.
2. Down Street Station
Down Street Station was originally a stop along the Piccadilly Line in Mayfair – situated between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner. Located in Mayfair it was eventually closed in 1932 due to it’s proximity to the other two stations and it’s unique location in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
During the Second World War the station was converted to be the headquarters of British Rail; a secure and underground location from which they could organize and control the flow of goods throughout the country during war time. It was also believed to be a shelter for Winston Churchill during the war as well.
The tour involves a tour of a closed station, including the rush of Piccadilly trains moving down the blocked off tunnels. The wonderful part of this tour is being able to visualize the underground headquarters of the rail and network, with views of their housing situation, and where they would have setup during the war. Though all of that has been taken down over the years, and the walls painted a lifeless gray, it’s a unique experience to get to walk these halls.
3. Charing Cross Platforms
The closed platforms at Charing Cross were once the terminus point of the Jubilee Line, before the extension expanded it all the way through to Stratford. When the Jubilee Line was expanded across the River Thames the platforms for Jubilee Line were closed.
The platforms have been used for modern based TV and films – including scenes from Skyfall, Thor 2, and Killing Eve. It provides a modern juxtaposition compared to the more vintage looking Aldwych Station.
The interesting element of this tour is not just viewing the more modern platforms and disused portion of the station, including not working escalator. But the real point of interest is the part of the tour that enters the ventilation shafts, which gave an incredible view of the behind the scenes elements of the London Underground.
4. Clapham Deep Level Shelter
The deep-level shelters at Clapham are not quite disused tube stations, but fits in with the theme and nature of the tours that Hidden London have organized.
During the Second World War many Londoners used the Tube Stations in the evenings of shelter during the Blitz. They were built in response to the demand for shelter space in London, and also after one of the south London tube stations was flooded after a water main burst following a bombing. The deep level shelters provided more security from such incidents.
Though no one ended up staying in the shelter during the Second World War, shortly after the war it was used to house the first immigrants who came over via Windrush to help rebuild the country. And later was used as a hotel for Festival of Britain.
The tour is not for the faint of heart as the shelter is 11 stories underground and there is no lift. The tour is really well thought out and tells the different history of the shelter over the years. It also gives a really strong feeling for just how large the shelter is.
5. Euston Tunnels
The tour of the Euston Tunnels involves visiting the disused passage ways that existed between the Tube lines at Euston Station and it features a hallway of vintage advertising and movie posters from the time when the tunnels were closed. The hallways were also done in the beautiful vintage Leslie Green design of tube stations, with the gorgeous and unmistakable green tiles.
The “lost” tunnels provide a different experience to some of the other stations which focus more on the disused station or closed platforms.
The tour visits several different areas within Euston, starting with the old entrance to the Tube Station, and snaking its way through the lost tunnels to view a variety of different elements within the station.
I did enjoy the tour but I would recommend either not partaking in this one or making it one of your first. By the time I reached Euston I had seen all of the various components that it had to offer elsewhere, and in better condition.
More Disused Tube Station Tours
The 5 disused tube stations that I’ve reviewed are the most popular and longest standing of the offerings from Hidden London. But there are a handful more locations that they offer tours to:
- Baker Street: This tour is unique as it allows access to the city’s first underground station when steam trains connected Paddington Station in the west of London and Farringdon Station in the east of London.
- Kingsway Tram Tunnel: This tour features a glimpse into London’s tram which has been closed for over 50 years, and much of the original tunnel remains intact.
- Moorgate: This tour features access to a station tha was built upon over and over again, creating a maze of tunnels closed to the public, but open for Hidden London.
- Piccadilly Circus: This tour features one of the most iconic of the London Underground stations and highlights the history of wartime London.
- Shepherd’s Bush: This tour highlights the importance of one of the first suburban connections for the Underground in western London.
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