“And this also… has been one of the dark places of the earth.”
These are, of course, famous words from Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novel, Heart of Darkness, describing Victorian London. At that time, the city was the heart of the most technologically advanced society on earth.
Perhaps,the most obvious symbol of this was the beginnings of the tube; a massive engineering feat, already almost thirty years old by the time Heart of Darkness was published. One has to wonder whether, like the great British Empire, the world’s oldest underground railway has any skeletons. After all, both the tube and the city have changed beyond recognition and re-invented themselves in order to cope with the vast demands that the population places on them. Every day, three million people use the 268 stations and the 253 miles of track. But what about those stations that have long since gone, which history has neglected? Which stations got left behind?
4. British Museum Station
British Museum station was opened on the 30th July 1900 on the Central line. Unfortunately for the tube stop, a rival company built Holborn station 100 feet away just six years later. Holborn was in a far better location: it had tram connections, enabling commuters to connect to their next destination.
There are many legends about the station being haunted by the ghost of an ancient Egyptian woman dressed in a loincloth and headdress. The rumours grew so strong that a newspaper offered a reward for anyone brave enough to spend the night there. No one did of course…
When the different rail companies operating the underground lines united in the thirties, it was decided that British Museum Station be closed for good and new platforms were added to Holborn.
The station was subsequently re-used in the sixties as a military administrative office and emergency command post, but it is now completely abandoned.
3. Brompton Road
Brompton Road from the outside
Brompton road tube station was opened on the 15th December 1906 on the modern-day Piccadilly line between Knightsbridge and South Kensington. Unfortunately, because of the proximity of so many other stations, very little traffic passed through the station.
Brompton Road tunnel
By 1909, some services bypassed the station altogether and it wasn’t economically viable anymore. In 1934 the station was closed altogether.
Brompton Road tube
Today the station is barely accessible and incredibly dangerous. In fact, at around Christmas time in 1994, a tragic incident occurred. Twenty-year-old student Sean Harper was found dead at the bottom of the tube station’s lift shaft. No one knows how he got there or what he was attempting to do in the building, but it just shows that the tunnels of the underground can be deadly.
2. Down Street
Down Street opened its lines on the 15th March 1907 between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner. Although its life as a tube station was short and uneventful, it played a vital role during World War Two and is one of London’s best-known closed tube stations.
Down Street toilets
Down Street was famously used by Winston Churchill and his wartime cabinet for temporary protection and also doubled up as the underground headquarters of the Railway Executive Committee.
In its days as a station, it was never a particularly busy and much like Brompton Road, it was often bypassed.
Opened in 1907, Aldwych Tube Station only closed its doors in 1994. Since then, due to the fact that it has been so well preserved, it has been used as a location for numerous films. In films ranging from Creep to Atonement, the station is a moviemaker’s paradise.
Legend has it that the ‘fluffers’, people who are employed to clean the stations and tunnels, are scared of a mysterious figure who roams the station at night. The fluffers believe that the ghost that haunts the station is that of an actress, who did not manage to fulfil her dreams. The legend is based on the fact that the station stood on the former plot of the strand theatre.
The station, which is today situated next to the buildings of King’s College London and opposite St Mary le Strand church, may well re-open in future. Often, plans are proposed including the station, but so far none have materialised.