5. Trafalgar Square
Like the British Museum, the absence of a tube station labelled ” Trafalgar Square” often confuses tourists. But there did used to be one. And it kind of still exists.
Hang on, because this might get bumpy. Trafalgar Square was opened in 1906 on the Bakerloo Line. A little while later (with quite some messing about with names) a nearby Northern Line station was named “Strand”. And so the two stations remained happily for a while, along with the District Line station Charing Cross, down on the riverside (although that too had been through a few name changes).
Then it all changed with the advent of the Jubilee Line in the 1970s. Strand was closed, and Charing Cross became Charing Cross (Embankment) as it once had been before. In 1979, the Jubilee Line opened, along with some new Northern Line platforms where Strand used to be, and is doing so absorbed the Trafalgar Square station into the new super-station known as Charing Cross. Simultaneously, the old Charing Cross became Embankment. Nowadays, Embankment has the Northern and Bakerloo Lines anyway, Charing Cross no longer has the Jubilee and there is definitely no Trafalgar Square.
Confused? Well, I spared you the more complicated bits…
Lords is, of course, better known for the famous cricket ground rather than the tube station, but there did used to be a station there. Like Marlborough Rd, it found itself on a redundant section of the Metropolitan Line and closed in 1939, just 5 months after being named “Lords” rather than St John’s Wood.
It might sound like a quiet life for a quiet station, but it did have a moment of drama over 30 years later. In 1970, the white South African cricket team were planning a visit, despite the blanket ban due to apartheid. There was a huge amount of protest against this and rumors emerged that the protestors were planning to use vents from the old station to access the pitch. In the end, the tour was cancelled so we’ll never know whether their plan would have worked…
3. King William St
Such grand ambitions, so cruelly dashed. King William St opened in 1890 as the Northern end of the world’s first electric underground railway, the City & South London Railway. But it became a victim of the line’s success when it proved so popular that expansion was needed almost immediately. In a lack of forward planning, the terminus was facing East, which made due North expansion a bit tricky. So it closed just 10 years later in 1900, skipped over to create what would eventually become the Northern Line.
2. Brompton Rd
Another bit of slightly suspect planning in West London, where Brompton Road nestled tightly between Knightsbridge and South Kensington. It was passed by so much that “Passing Brompton Road!” became a popular catchphrase and eventually a play. Given the redundancy of the stop, it was unsurprisingly closed in 1934. It later became the Anti-Aircraft Operations Room in the Second World War, and is still used by various Air Squadrons.
The most well-known of all the abandoned stations, Aldwych has proved more popular after closure than before it, with films, music videos and even “Tomb Raider” filmed there (although the station in “Tomb Raider” had a very different layout. At one time, members of the public were regularly allowed on guided tours but this has scaled back dramatically recently.
It’s one of the easiest stations to spot, with two red-tiled entrances sitting on the Strand and just off it. Although the signs now bear the original name “Strand”, which causes further confusion (and no, it’s not the same “Strand” mentioned earlier…). It’s also another station which seemed fated to close as it was on an otherwise useless stub of the Piccadilly Line. In 1994, the little-used station needed £5m of life repairs and it was Goodnight Aldwych. But this is one station that lives on in popular culture.