I was recently fortunate enough* to go on one of London Transport Museum's rare tours of the abandoned Aldwych Underground station, originally known as Strand. Why an abandoned tube station? Well, it's a beautiful little time capsule to another age of design, site of many well known film and tv scenes, and a we got a very good little tour giving insights into how the Underground was originally run.
Click on pictures for larger views, and on "Read More" for more images and info.
Aldwych is fascinating as it opened in 1907, ran an increasingly reduced service until it closed in 1994, and since then it has been one of the 'go-to' locations for filming the underground. Such low level use resulted in much of the original outfitting remaining - there was no reason to refurbish. Wooden booking office desks welcome you, and posters from the 1950s peel from the walls. Well... herein lies some of the fun... as a prime spot for filming, some of these details are fake, added in permanently to enhance the period feel, or remainders from recent productions. Our knowledgeable guide took great fun testing us on what is original, and what looks so original but is fake.
As is so often the way with time capsules of great interest, in the hands of large organisations, the tube folk originally had little idea how fascinated punters and film crews would be. So we were able to play "name that station tile design" where the original cream and green tiles were sadly pulled off to allow testing of tile designs for other stations. For years, Aldwych was a way to try out paint, tiles etc in the kind of conditions they'd have to face underground.
The location itself is just pretty amazing to potter around, and gawp at, plus we were also treated to some very interesting "I didn't know that" moments from the guide. I never knew the tube was originally comprised of lots of small businesses and entrepreneurs, running separate sections. Getting to stand by the tube train which took V to his explosive end* was rather "squee!" and there were a few film buffs mixed in with the tube spotters and history fans.
is Aldwych station worth £25 per head for an hour's tour?
I would say so. It's a very unusual location with layers of interest, from storing the Elgin Marbles to filming 28 Weeks Later, and a rare glimpse into both a luxurious feeling past, and the concrete and girders behind the smooth corridors we're so used to.
*Having seen that the tours were sold out, I called to ask about the chances of cancellations, and was very happy to be told that a couple of tickets were available again. Yes. I was that customer, chancing their arm and asking for a favour, but I was expecting to get no for an answer!
*ok, this could be a spoiler - but either you already know what this refers to, or you probably never will.