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Secret London: Down Street London Underground Tour

Ever since playing the Aldwych level in Tomb Raider 3 as a youngster, I have been fascinated by the notion of hidden and disused London Underground stations. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing a tour of the disused Down Street station on the Piccadilly Line, and here’s what we found down there…

We congregated at The Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair for some coffee and biscuits in preparation for the tour. Alec is looking very happy with his shortbread here, bless him 🙂

Coffee and biscuits at The Athenaeum hotel before the tour

Just outside The Athenaeum is Down Street, where the old underground station is located. Without knowing beforehand what this was, I don’t think I would even have noticed, and walked straight past it. The ticket hall is now a convenience store which is a shame, as that would have been wonderful to see.

The station was only in use for a short time, being opened in 1907 and closed again in 1932, mainly due to misuse. It was designed by the architect Leslie Green; identified by the red tiled exterior and arched windows.

Exterior of Down Street underground station in 2017

We made our way through the entrance, which is through the unassuming grey door you see in the photo above, and down a short staircase. On a landing just inside the entrance before the main curving staircase downward was a floor plan poster, put in for the purposes of the tour.

Down Street Station floor plan

During the Second World War, this station was used by railway workers keeping the train service running throughout, and by Churchill and his cabinet as a shelter. The space was converted to contain offices, a telephone exchange, dormitories, meeting rooms and bathrooms for workers to use.

There are various directional signs located on walls throughout the station which would have been added during this wartime period; this ‘To Offices’ sign is situated at the top of the main spiral staircase leading down into the station:

'To Offices' sign at Down Street

This ‘To Street’ sign is located on the elevator shaft about halfway down the main staircase:

'To street' sign at Down Street

This ‘Enquiries & Committee Room’ sign is located in a tunnel deeper inside the disused station:

Guide shining a light on 'Enquiries and Committee Room' sign at Down Street

The guides led us through the tunnels, explaining how and when certain areas were used. Parts of the tour were pitch black and very close quarters down tiny passageways, and we could only see by using torches. It was very eerie!

Guide shining a light on 'Women at work' sign at Down Street Guide talking about the Committee Room at Down Street during the Second World War Guide in front of dormitories sign

Down by where the platforms would have been, these signs were put in to aid maintenance workers. They are obviously more modern, judging by the style of them. To the left and right of these signs, we could occasionally see Piccadilly Line trains speed by.

Piccadilly line eastbound and westbound platform signs at Down Street

There are also these signs in the distinctive style of Leslie Green, the architect of the station. These ones would have been used to aid passengers when the station was used for its intended purpose.

'To the trains' sign at Down Street 'Way out' sign at Down Street

The tour was super fascinating, and I would definitely like to do another one in the future. It is expensive and hard to get tickets, but it was very well organised, and the guides were fantastic. I really want to see the Aldwych station for myself, so as soon as those tours become available again, I’m going to book one ASAP!

I took some video footage as well; I’ll drop it in this post when I’ve cut all the clips together 🙂

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