Aldwych Station is probably the most well known disused tube station on the London Underground network. There are occasional opportunities to visit the station for tours organized by the London Transport Museum.
There are about 26 disused tube stations in London but you may have already seen inside Aldwych station without realizing as it is a popular filming location. It was used for The Patriot Games, V for Vendetta, Atonement, 28 Days Later and many more movies. The video for Firestarter by The Prodigy was also filmed here. More recently, Aldwych station has been used in the Mr. Selfridge TV series.
History of the Station
The Leslie Green-designed station opened in 1907 as Strand station (the name of the main road nearby) and it was intended for Theatreland trips. Before the station even opened the short line was merged with the Piccadilly Line and it soon became clear it had low passenger numbers as it became a short spur route from Holborn.
In 1915 the station changed its name from Strand to Aldwych (the actual road the station is on) as nearby Charing Cross station was then called Strand (as it's at the other end of the road).
The eastern platform was not used for train services from about 1917 and when German bombing started in WWI the platform was used as emergency storage for 300 paintings from the National Gallery.
In 1922 the Booking Office closed and tickets were issued in the lifts (elevators). Interestingly, a bell operated at Holborn station rang in the Aldwych lift to give the lift attendant a warning that he had two minutes to get down and collect the passengers.
During the Blitz, Aldwych station was used as an air raid shelter at night. Up to 1500 people could apply for tickets to sleep inside and there was even entertainment provided. Many people went to work each day and spent their nights in the station.
Low passenger numbers continued and as there were nine minutes between trains it was quicker to walk. The station fully closed in 1994 when the cost of refurbishing the original 1907 lists could not be justified.
Aldwych station is Grade II listed and some original features still remain including a 1907 basin in the Ladies toilet.
A Visit to Aldwych Station
In the present day, there are some unfinished tunnels that have been opened which had previously never before seen by visitors. Incredibly, these were dug by hand but were left due to a lack of funding and no requirement. There were also extra lift shafts, again dug by hand, that were never utilized as the station was underused from the start.
A visit to the station includes the Ticket Hall area, down the 160 steps and the two disused platforms, the lifts (although they are not in use) plus any other areas available at the time.
There are many rules to abide by when visiting and these are Transport for London's 'terms and conditions' so even though the London Transport Museum get to run the tours the rules must be followed. Most of it is the obvious Health and Safety stuff such as no open-toed shoes and awareness there is no step free access. But there is also no food and drink allowed as Aldwych station is vermin free - unlike other stations on the network.
Excellent tour guides take you around the station (in groups, for safety purposes) and they have a plethora of information to share as well as some fascinating photos. The LTM Friends usually guide the tours and they are real experts.
Look out for the posters on the platforms but be aware not all are old as many are added for filming purposes and are made to look old. Dangling over platform 2 you can see calcite straws hanging down.
How to Plan a Tour
Tours of Aldwych station do not run regularly but check the London Transport Museum website for news of events and tours. For more about disused tube stations, check out Abandoned Tube Stations and Underground History.