Before we begin I’ve got a few technical notes. My new widget for Goodreads is now up and running which you can view at the side of my home page. Once clicked it should take you to my Goodread account where you can see what I’m currently reading, what I’ve read and my latest book review some of which will be posted on here. Secondly I have now worked out how to post gifs. There won’t be any in this post but by next week we shall have gifs galore! This post in the first of a new category called inspirations. It’s a retelling of events, locations or people I’ve experienced, visited or met that I think could provide inspiration for writers. All pictures in this post are my own. Please, read and enjoy.
The first thing you notice about Aldwych station is its age. The ox blood bricks stands out against the city landscape. The surrounding buildings (mostly owned by King’s Collage London) are engraved with stone dragons and gargoyles, most of their walls are a sand colour making the station stick out like a spot of acne on an otherwise unblemished skin. The area is undergoing redevelopment so it seems strange that this one building is left untouched. Aldwych is protected by its grade two listed status. The writing above the entrance doesn’t label the station as Aldwych. The station is labelled Piccadilly RLY and Strand Station. This is because it was the only station on The Strand until Charing Cross was built a ten minute walk away. When Charing Cross was first built it was called The Strand forcing Aldwych to change its name. When Charing Cross was renamed Charing Cross Aldwych kept its new name.
The layout to the entrance hall is similar to the concourse of modern London Underground station if you replace the silver gleam with brown wood and cream and green tiles. Once inside you enter the old ticket office complete with two wooden lifts. The lifts are one of the reasons Aldwych was closed. They were first installed in 1908 but would have cost a small fortune to replace. Only 450 passengers were making use of the station and it was costing London Underground £150,000 to keep running. Aldwych was finally closed in 1994.
The walls are crumbling away, imagine being inside an empty tube of toothpaste that is being compressed. The tunnel mouths are now bricked up and only a small section of dusty track remains. Some of the posters of the time period remain but they’re faded and tattered. The station looks miserable, frozen in time. The platform was still in use after the trains ceased. For example in 1917 many of the paintings stored in the National Gallery were hidden in the Aldwych station over fears they could be damaged by German bombs. Interestingly this fear was mirrored for artifacts of the British Museum during the Second World War and they were secretly housed in the disused tunnels. One such artifact was the infamous Elgin Marbles.
On the opposite platform is a disused train. It’s actually a 1970’s Northern Line train with the old Northern Line maps inside. The station was converted into an Air Raid Shelter during the Second World War and many Londoners spent nights sleeping on the platform and the tracks. The toilets consisted of two buckets at either end of the platform. A recording of a man who slept in the tunnels is played on the train in semi darkness.
The stations main use today (apart from tours) is for filming purposes. Superman 4, V for Vendetta, Die Another Day, Skyfall, Sherlock and Mr Selfridge were all filmed in and around the station. The Bakerloo line sign (seen below) was added for a Mr Selfridge scene and not removed. The lift shafts were used in The Prodigy’s music video Firestarter. Arguably Aldwych is the busiest disused station in London.
The station is incredibly interesting and I could of spent several more hours exploring it but once you emerge back to street level and see the building works, the modern cars and pop into the nearest Starbucks you feel a pang of pity for the station. Most Londoners don’t know what they’re walking past and many don’t care. The station will lay forgotten to the general public, home to only memories.