A Walk Through Aldwych

Over on social media, I promised my thoughts on the Hidden London Aldwych tour…

Aldwych Station, still standing strong amongst brutalist concrete.

For those who don’t know, Aldwych is ‘the’ iconic lost station but, due to its busy schedule, isn’t open to the public as often as some of the others. It’s a frequent filming location, and the surface building itself – found on the corner of the Strand and Surrey Street – is a familiar sight from not only TV but also video games (for example, it’s the frontage of all tube stations in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, despite being wildly anachronistic, *grumble*.)

The original ticket hall, not at its best.

The ‘V for Vendetta’ train. It’ll have its work cut out reaching Westminster from here.

A platform bereft of trains for over a century.

I first took a tour of Aldwych five years ago, and it promptly inspired a whole bunch of creative endeavours, starting with Coldharbour, and spiraling out from there. Aldwych is a wonderful piece of history. Calm and unsettling at the same time, and a notable relic of not only the transport system, but also wartime London.

Old Ghosts

The station itself remains much the same as five years ago (though perhaps a touch cleaner). The tour, however, is quite different.

On the plus side, there’s a lot more time for (and understanding of) photography. All the guides were incredibly accommodating about letting me trail behind to get the shots I wanted – which hasn’t previously been the case. This is great, because if you’ve more than a passing interest in the station’s history (or have access to Wikipedia) you’ll not learn a great deal of new information from the tour itself. This isn’t to knock the content, but the Hidden London tours are always a tug-of-war between delivering information guests can get literally anywhere else with an internet connection, and allowing them to embrace the atmosphere. The balance here felt about right.

As to the station access itself, this was notably curtailed from five years ago. Half the original ticket hall is currently closed off due to what looks to be a recent ceiling collapse. This is probably a temporary state of affairs, thanks to Aldwych’s role as a filming location.

Into the depths...

A brief walk to Holborn.
Mind the rails.

At platform level, tunnels sit forlorn and unfrequented beyond the empty (and never used) lift shaft.

More troubling is the fact that the uncompleted areas of the station, accessible on the previous tours, are now sealed off. I don’t see any prospect of these being reopened. The walls are unfinished concrete, and I suspect health and safety concerns are part of what’s driving their exclusion. Sure, these passages aren’t exactly pretty, but closing them off robs Aldwych of its ‘living cross-section’ appeal. Moving from place to place through the station formerly gave a grand idea of just how it was built. Alas, no more.

With all that said, a tour of Aldwych remains a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested in modern history or urban exploration. It’s an increasingly rare example of the London Underground of yesteryear. While parts of the station are listed, I suspect it won’t be maintained in its current state forever.

If the idea of walking its empty platforms holds any appeal, I’d go as soon as you can.

Pros
- Great Photo opportunities
- Iconic location
- Unique glimpse into history

Cons
- Station increasingly closed off
- Expensive (£45 for a 60-75 minute tour)
- Limited tickets

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