Touring Down Street Station
There remains many “secret” locations to see in London that tell amazing tales of the history of this city. An organization called “Hidden London“, in connection with TFL (Transport for London) have opened quite a few of these locations for tours. It’s become so popular that some of the tours even sell out months in advance, even over a year.
“Hidden London” runs tours over 6 locations: Aldwych Tube Station, 55 Broadway, Charing Cross Station, Clapham South Station, Down Street Station, and Euston Station.
Of those 6 I’ve had the pleasure of now attending 3 (including Down Street), and will be visiting a 4th in March – Clapham South. The brilliance of these tours is that each station has something different to see or learn about. I’ve yet to do a blog article on Aldwych or Charing Cross but hope to get around to it shortly.
Down Street Station
The station was only in use as a Tube station for a very short period of time between 1907 and 1932. It was built up a side street in Mayfair and received minimal traffic due to the location and the proximity to both Green Park and Hyde Park Corner.
However in 1939 it became an underground and reinforced bunker for the Railway Executive Committee to use as their center of operations in keeping the railways running and vital supplies moving.
The focus of the tour was less on the disused station and more on the wartime uses of this particular station. It was a fascinating exploration of their life underground, though most of it had been removed or painted over. There were some great finds beneath the layers of break dust however, and incredible history.
While everything we saw was fascinating I was particularly struck by the work done there in the 80s to paint everything over with a layer of gray paint. My other half suggested this might have been to contain the asbestos issues that would have plagued the station. The guides didn’t have an explanation but that one seems as reasonable as any.
Beneath the layer of paint the curators located one of the famous “way out” signs that were a key design element in the stations designed by Leslie Green. The famous red tiles were also uncovered beneath the heavy gray paint and there are likely other treasures lurking beneath.