As you walk through London, there’s not much to indicate the hundreds of people and trains rushing underneath your feet. But every so often, you’ll feel an odd shake in someone’s house that’s a rattly Victoria Line train, or a faint hubbub when you’re in the basement at work. The tube network is under your feet all the time.
But what not everyone knows is that the tube map, based on Harry Beck’s designs, only cover a part of what’s down there. There are disused tunnels, abandoned platforms and entire stations that still exist either in part or exactly as they were when they were closed. Thanks to terror laws, it’s hard to gain access to most of them, but here’s a guide to what lies beneath, with our Top 10 Abandoned London Underground Stations:
10. North End (Bull & Bush)
This is a strange one, as it’s the only station on the list that never even made it to being a station. It was built on the Northern Line (then known as the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway) between Hampstead and Golders Green in 1903 and would have been the tube’s deepest ever station. But only the lower levels were completed – in 1906, building stopped and the project lay redundant until the 1950s when a surface building was built, along with the access down so that it could be used for storage.
But although no passengers ever alighted here, it saw its share of action. Trains still passed through the ghost station in the early days, with few passengers aware of what should have been there, and in World War II it was used to store secret documents. With no surface access, it was the ideal secret store and it could only be visited by service trains.
The station was pressed into service again during the Cold War – at such a deep level underground, it was deemed to be the perfect control center from which to manage the emergency floodgates of the tube. The surface building was disguised as an electricity station, with appropriate signs, and the exits were exits not only from the station but from the whole tube network. Clearly someone’s Cold War plan involved everyone sheltering in the tube and then calmly filing out onto Hampstead Heath. Very British!
In another mark of very Britishness, the alternate name (“Bull & Bush”) comes from a nearby pub. It never opened, but still had enough people working there to get itself a nickname!
9. Down Street
Not to be confused with Downing St, this Mayfair based tube sat between Green Park (then Dover Street) and Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line but was too close to both of them to really be used much, and it closed in 1932. No-one was particularly surprised by the closure – Harry Beck’s draft tube maps from the year before had omitted the station, perhaps in anticipation of its fate. It left the large area of Mayfair without a tube to really call its own (the nearby tubes are very much on the edge of Mayfair), but Mayfair folk are too classy to ride the tube anyway!
Happily, Down St also found a new lease of life during the war, when it became home to Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet – Churchill enjoyed getting away from the noise of the bombing down there and referred to it as “The Burrow”. You can see a virtual tour, including Winston Churchill’s bath, here.
8. British Museum
Another station that suffered due to close by competition, the British Museum station opened in 1900 on what is now the Central Line, and closed in 1933 when the Central Line linked up to nearby Piccadilly Line station Holborn instead. Previously, passengers had been forced to exit one station, walk 100m down the street and then go back into another station.
The British Museum station has appeared in a number of books, and its absence continues to confuse tourists who exit Holborn tube at a busy crossroads, with no iconic museum anywhere in sight (it’s very close by, just hidden behind some office blocks). The station is also supposed to be haunted by an Egyptian Pharoah called Amen-Ra’s daughter, who appears and screams loudly down the tunnels. Worth listening out for if you’re at Holborn tube!
7. Marlborough Rd
Another station closed to lack of use, Marlborough Rd was on the Metropolitan Line near Lord’s cricket ground. That particular section of line was later transferred to the Bakerloo Line and then to the Jubilee Line. Confused yet? Anyway, the transferal over to the Bakerloo Line, with all-new deep-level effectively bypassed this station and caused its demise in 1939. It enjoyed a spell as both an Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse and a Chinese restaurant before becoming vacant.
6. St Marys
This largely forgotten station opened on the East London Line in 1884, although it switched over to the Metropolitan Line a few months later, and was situated on Whitechapel Rd, later famous for being the second cheapest property in Monopoly. It was always a tiny, cramped station and the move of Aldgate East to within 100m meant that St Marys was redundant, and it closed in 1938.
Like many of the stations, it had a second use during the war as a bomb shelter. However, on October 22 1940, it was hit by a bomb and so damaged that it needed to be demolished. A sad end for an undervalued station.