Aldwych Ghost Station

Take a stroll along the Strand, if you look up you’ll notice an intriguing archway with a sealed-off entrance. Though the signage has a different name (more on that later) this is Aldwych Ghost Station.

Aldwych Ghost Station

What’s a ghost station?

Essentially a disused tube station.

Aldwych closed to passengers in 1994 and though it was never a successful station, from its opening in 1907 until then it still played an important role in London’s history.

Aldwych Ghost Station

Let’s go inside…

As our small group enters for our tour we are greeted with the tinny sounds of Vaudeville music, a reference to the Royal Strand Theatre which stood here until 1831.

Aldwych Ghost Station

Along with the run-down theatre that was demolished, huge sections of the area’s slums were being removed, making way for the Piccadilly line.

One of three lines created by the UERL (Underground Electric Railways Company of London), Holborn became the centre of the new Piccadilly line which merged two separate lines.

Known as the Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway – catchy! – It ran between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park.

But what about Aldwych station? It was just a Southern terminus off-shoot of this line, the image below showing it’s lonely position;

Aldwych Ghost Station

It opened 30 November 1907 as Strand Station, but the name changed in 1915 to Aldwych. Confusingly this was because the nearby Northern Line Station Charing Cross called itself Strand. Much later in 1979 the name was changed back to Charing Cross!

Aldwych Ghost Station

Down on the platforms you can see the painted letters of ‘Strand’.

As you can probably guess from looking at the map, Aldwych didn’t get much footfall, only around 450 daily passengers.

For a bit of comparison (taking into account London’s larger population than 100 years ago) Victoria got an average of 234,000 daily passengers in 2015.

The station wildly overestimated its popularity, planning for three lifts. Through the grille below you can see the shaft, but no lift in its place.

Aldwych Ghost Station

And that’s not the only place they cut corners.

These tiles – although today we might think them glorious – were the cheapest option. Each tube station was meant to have a unique colour and pattern of tiles, helping illiterate or foreign Londoners navigate themselves without signage.

Aldwych Ghost Station
Aldwych Ghost Station

Aldwych Finds Its Calling

I don’t want you to have a false impression that Aldwych was useless. Here’s a few of the useful roles it’s played…

Aldwych Ghost Station

Like many stations in Central London, Aldwych was used as a bomb shelter. Its original design had two parallel tunnels but even by 1914 only one platform and tunnel was ever used. This made a perfect space for sheltering Londoners.

Julian Andrews, a child during WWII, was interviewed by the London Transport Museum during their research and described;

“Hundreds and hundreds of bodies wrapped in blankets down there.”

Aldwych Ghost Station

The above photo from 1941 was actually a staged government propaganda shot, designed to show children tucked up cosily underground, blissfully unaware of their City being bombed above.

But it wasn’t just people either. Given its proximity to big museums like National Gallery and British Museum, objects like the Parthenon Marbles were stored safely 33m underground!

Aldwych Ghost Station

After The War, train services began in July 1946, but there was still the extra platform and tunnel with around 76m of dead end space.

Aldwych Ghost Station

The museum store remained a quarter full right up until 1955.

And the platform walls were put to good use as a testing space for new tile designs!

Aldwych Ghost Station
Clapham South Station

What next?

Today the station is mainly used for filming.

This can be for the music industry (The Kinks, Madness & Prodigy – for Firestarter filmed videos here) but also film. Any time you see a period film with an underground location, it’s likely it was filmed at Aldwych. Highlights include The Darkest Hour, Atonement and V for Vendetta.

With its atmospheric setting it’s easy to see why.

Aldwych Ghost Station

There’s also the allure of original features like this 1972 stock train;

Aldwych Ghost Station

Lifts dating back to the 1920s…

Aldwych Ghost Station

And advertisements from decades ago. Oddly, one is now rather relevant..

Aldwych Ghost Station

Visiting Aldwych Ghost Station

Hidden London (part of the London Transport Museum) run tours across a range of TFL property and you can’t find out more here. If you’ve missed out on tickets, I’d advise signing up to their mailing list to be the first to hear about future tours of subterranean London shelters.

Meanwhile you can see how I got on with other Hidden London tours, including Clapham South55 Broadway and Down Street Ghost Station.

More London Inspiration

  • History of Orange Street, Westminster | Look Up London

    Hidden History on Orange Street, Westminster

    Orange Street doesn’t look very historic at first glance. The narrow Westminster street lies between the National Gallery and Leicester Square but there’s a lot more to see than you might guess. Firstly, it was only known as Orange Street from 1905, a reference to......

  • City Churches | St Margaret Lothbury | Look Up London

    City Churches | St Margaret Lothbury

    Nestled behind the Bank of England you can find St Margaret Lothbury. It’s easy to miss, hemmed in by other buildings, but if open it’s well worth popping in to admire its treasures and history. (I’ve previously written about the beautiful Italianate building next door,......

  • History of The Crystal Palace | London Remains and Its Derbyshire Inspiration

    Within the extensive grounds of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire you can find remnants of inspiration for one of London’s most extraordinary buildings, The Crystal Palace. It gave its name to an area of London (and a football team!) but thanks to a disastrous fire you......

  • Trinity House | Look Up London

    Trinity House | Inside the Corporation with a 500-year History

    Have you admired this dolls house-esque building on Tower Hill? This is Trinity House, an institution whose history stretches back to 1514, based here since 1794. What is Trinity House? Today Trinity House is a charity and its primary concern is the safety of shipping......

  • St Clement Watch House | History on Strand Lane

    St Clements Watch House | History on Strand Lane

    For the everyday passerby, there’s not much reason to venture into Strand Lane. It’s not a convenient cut through to the Strand however it has two quite amazing bits of history to discover! I’ve previously covered one of them on the blog, the history of......

  • Surrey Chapel | The Trailblazing Church and Boxing Ring

    As part of my new walking tour Hidden Wonders of Waterloo I’ve been researching the history of Surrey Chapel, an 18th century church that once stood by Southwark Station. Although it no longer stands today, it’s a prime example of the historic twists and turns......

Aldwych Ghost Station

6 Comments

  • Hugh Terry

    Reply

    At one time I believe there were plans to extend the Aldwych branch under the Thames, to connect with the Elephant & Castle stations on the South Bank. This might considerably reduce traffic on adjacent bridges. Will the scheme ever be resurrected – or is it just another great British railway white elephant..?

    May 25, 2019 at 2:13 pm
  • John David Sams

    Reply

    In the summer of 1967, I had a holiday job with W. H. SMITH, and was sent from Blackfriars bookstall, to run the satellite bookstall at Aldwych Underground Station.
    Opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 4.p.m.
    I was bored to tears, between about 8.45 a.m., and closing time, often seeing no living persons during that time.
    In the station entrance was my bookstall, and a cigarette and sweet stall, run by an elderly lady.

    October 13, 2020 at 7:15 am
  • Matt

    Reply

    Its Such A Shame That TFL Decided To Close This Wonderful And Beautiful Station.

    November 23, 2021 at 7:07 pm
  • I’m sure when the strand is redeveloped so could this be into something, shops etc. It would be a shame to waste all that space

    December 19, 2021 at 4:46 pm

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

BOOK NOW