London is a city littered with corpses.
Some of them are visible in plain sight, dejectedly propped up on busy street corners. Only bits of others remain, buried deep below the ground, or barely visible out of the windows of trains passing by.
Mercifully, I’m not talking about actual dead people (because, eww), but abandoned tube stations.
Now as ever with these things, the exact number of such abandoned tube stations depends slightly on how one defines the word “abandoned” – or, indeed, the word “tube”.
Does a tube station that never got opened count as abandoned? Does a tube station that’s still used, but not by the tube, count as abandoned? Does a tube station that was closed, but replaced by a new station that’s really very close, by count as abandoned?
See, we’re having fun already. Anyway: experts claim that there are 49 abandoned stations, and the less said on how anyone arrived at that number the better. It’s much more interesting to actually look at the individual cases.
Of course, there’s enough information on all of these to fill a large book (any commissions, anyone?). But to save time, here’s the bare minimum information you need to sound impressive in the pub.
First, there are the blockbusters; the ones you’ve probably already heard of.
The Northern line between Old Street and Angel is a pretty long stretch, bypassing that strange part of north-eastern central London, from Clerkenwell outwards, that seems a little bereft of stations.
But it didn’t used to be so. City Road station on the Northern line closed on 8 August 1922, but you can still see the station building.
Charming. Image: Google Maps.
On the intersection between City Road, Central Street, and Graham Street, the dejected stump of the old elevator shafts is just, sort of, there. It’s a little sad now, isn’t it.
Not all that far away is one of London’s most complete abandoned tube stations.
It used to bridge the long Piccadilly line gap between King’s Cross St Pancras and Caledonian Road before it closed on 17 September 1932.
The surface building is very much still visible, lost amidst the strange industrial land north of King’s Cross station, on the corner of York Way and Bingfield Street.
Still looking good. Image: Google Maps.
A pretty handsome building, if you ask me.
The Piccadilly line is actually the most fertile line for abandoned tube stations within London proper.
Brompton Road was on the Piccadilly line, back when it was still called the Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway, and lay between Knightsbridge and South Kensington. (Another long gap, you’ll notice.)
The station building is just about visible if you peer off Brompton Road down Cottage Place, right by the London Oratory.
Defensive. Image: Google Maps.
For a long time, the building was owned and used by the Ministry of Defence, and thus very much not available for occasional dalliances down to the old platforms. But in 2014 they sold it to private investors who converted the site into very fancy residential flats, because London.
More intriguingly, the station was put to good use even after it closed on 21 May 1932. During the Second World War, it was the Royal Artillery’s anti-aircraft operations room for Central London. Dinky little offices cramped laterally along disused platforms. Tiny staircases. Sleeping quarters on platforms above those offices. All very make-do-and-mend.
In a similar vein, Down Street was on the Piccadilly line between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner; that one closed on 21 May 1932, too.
Like Brompton Road, it was used during the war, and most of the surface building is still visible on – as you might have guessed – Down Street, just off Piccadilly.
Come on kids, let’s get commercial. Image: Google Maps.
Before the Cabinet War Rooms were completed and ready for use, Winston Churchill frequented Down Street station as a temporary bunker, and referred to it as “The Barn”.
It is one of the few abandoned stations that could come back into use. Back in 2015, TfL started taking proposals for commercial use of the station building, disused lift shaft, and underground passages.
And in 2016, the London Transport Museum ran tours through the old station as part of its ‘Hidden London’ programme.
Sticking with the Piccadilly line, we come to one of the more pointless central London stations.
For a long time, Holborn was the starting point for a branch line of the Piccadilly running just one station south, to Aldwych station. (For the first eight years of its life, from 1907 to 1915, it was actually known as Strand.)
Even though Aldwych was almost bang on top of Temple station anyway, and the branch line didn’t run through trains – as in, you couldn’t get on a train at Finsbury Park or South Kensington and end up at Aldwych – it was just there anyway.
While this offers an interesting lesson about the barmy, disjointed, tangled mess that was the early development of the London Underground under the hodge-podge of private rail investors, it was not a particularly fruitful bit of infrastructure.
Actually rather beautiful. Image: Google Maps.
It closed on 30 September 1994, which is really frightfully late, and still sits there on the south side of the Strand.
The Aldwych line also saw action in the Second World War: the branch line platform at Holborn that they never quite figured out how to use properly was used as wartime offices.
This one lay on the Central line, slightly to the west of what is now Holborn, and served the area around the goliath British Museum. But this was slightly annoying, because it meant that anyone trying to change from the Central to Piccadilly lines had to get out and walk the 100yds between them at street level.
There were plans to close British Museum in favour of an expanded Holborn from as early as 1913, but the First World War meant they didn’t come to fruition for two decades. British Museum finally closed on 24 September 1933, replaced by a newly expanded Holbon.
The station building is now totally gone, but here’s the bank they put where it used to be.
This is a road, people. You can’t just stand there. Image: Google Maps.
Good, isn’t it.
Not technically abandoned, as such, because it’s very much still there, but part of the station was closed on November 19th, 1999.
The two platforms that formed the terminus of the Jubilee line closed their gates to passengers after the extension through to Westminster, Canary Wharf, and Stratford was opened.
But they’re still there, and are used every now and then for filming, for TV shows like Spooks and films including Skyfall. So that’s nice.
South Kentish Town
Getting more niche, now.
Opened in 1907 by the Charing Cross, Euston, & Hampstead Railway – now on the High Barnet branch of the Northern line – South Kentish Town station was going to be called Castle Road. And then at the last minute the constructors changed their minds so they had to change all the tiles on the platforms, which was jolly clever of them.
In a similarly clever move, the station was closed just 17 years after opening, on 5 June 1924, due to low passenger use.
Converting your tube station into cash. Magic. Image: Google Maps.
The station building is still there, on Kentish Town Road at the intersection with Royal College Street, and looks a little underloved.
Give it a wave if you’re walking past.
We’re getting to the end of the “definitely a station” bit and will be edging into the “more a vague notion of a station” section soon, but first: Mark Lane.
The tangle of lines connecting the eastern terminus of the District Railway at Mansion House with the eastern terminus of the Metropolitan Railway at Aldgate – a saga of power playing and corporate politics that deserves an entire book of its own – resulted in a number of new stations. Recognisable names like Cannon Street, Monument, and Aldgate East were added to the list of tube stations, along with weird extras like St. Mary’s (more on that later), Tower of London (not the same as Tower Hill) and Mark Lane.
If London had a Chamber of Secrets this would be it. Image: Google Maps.
You can still see the old entrance to Mark Lane tube station next to the All Bar One, just as Byward Street becomes Tower Hill.
It closed on 4 February 1967, and was replaced by Tower Hill just next door.
Tower of London
Tower of London was a really stupid station that closed just two years after it opened, replaced by the aforementioned Mark Lane in 1884.
The last bits of the Tower of London tube station were demolished in 1967 when Tower Hill station was built, which is roughly on the same site. Everything old is new again.
This station was between Aldgate East and Whitechapel. It closed on 1 May 1938, when Aldgate East station was moved slightly to the east, rendering St. Mary’s station redundant. The station building itself was damaged by a bomb during the Second World War, then demolished totally shortly after.
For real nerds, though, there’s a junction that still bears the station name. In ye olden days, trains could run from the tracks of today’s District and Hammersmith & City lines across to the East London line of today’s London Overground via a nifty junction and connecting bit of track called St. Mary’s Curve.
The curve was used to transfer rolling stock from one line to another when necessary, but since becoming part of the London Overground in 2010, the East London line no longer shares any rolling stock with the Metropolitan Line. And so St. Mary’s Curve has, tragically, fallen out of use.
Hounslow Town and around
Once upon a time the District line extended as far as Hounslow, to a now closed station called Hounslow Town, which was not far from the modern Hounslow East. Hounslow Town as the District Railway’s terminus in 1883, closed in 1886, but then opened again for six years from 1903-1909.
These tracks are now used by today’s Piccadilly line, which – following various extensions – now serves Heathrow Airport at three separate stations. And today, that bit of the network is a bit of a corpse trail.
A helpful map. Click to expand. Image: David Cane/Wikipedia.
For starters, there’s Osterley & Spring Grove, which once upon a time was the next stop from Hounslow Town heading east. That one opened in May 1883 as part of this District Railway line to Hounslow Town, and then closed on March 25th, 1934.
But even though it closed, it didn’t really stop existing. They basically just moved it and changed the name, and its hard to find a particularly good reason why.
I wonder how many books about trains they have. Image: Google Maps.
The old station building is still there, and is now a very charming bookshop – but you can still see the whole station as you go past on a Piccadilly line train to or from Heathrow.
Then there’s Hounslow West, which opened as a further terminus in July 1884, then called Hounslow Barracks; it was renamed in 1925 then closed on 14 July 1975, when they moved the station a wee bit so they could extend out towards Hatton Cross and Heathrow.
The District Railway also built a station a little north of here called Park Royal & Twyford Abbey, on tracks now used by the Piccadilly line’s branch to Uxbridge. After just 28 years, on 6 July 1931, the railway closed it, and opened today’s Park Royal, just a little way south. Basically this was so that the station could be connected to the newly-built and eternally horrifying A40 trunk road, built in the 1920s. But still: why bother?
Then there’s this, which confuses me so much that I don’t really want to talk about it. But it’s my job, so:
Click to expand. Image: CartoMetro.
This is a screenshot from this amazing map, which shows all the lines, stations, and platforms – past, present and (ocassionally) future – on the entire London rail and tube network. Impressive.
But what it does show is that this bit of West London is a total mess. While a lot of this is to do with the Franco-British Exhibition of 1871, which plonked a whole load of fancy white buildings on what was then a pretty empty part of West London – the reason why White City is known as White City – a lot of it… isn’t.
This mess is also responsible for the only (correct me if I’m wrong*) part of the tube where the lines are on the wrong side. Just north of White City, the eastbound Central Line trains pass under the westbound trains to travel on the right hand side. Just before Shepherd’s Bush, they then go under the westbound trains again to come out at Shepherd’s Bush on the right side, which is the left-hand side.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: He was wrong. As many people have since pointed out on social media, this happens in several places. The writer responsible has been disciplined. Anyway, back to the article:
Anyway. To run through the corpses here. There’s Shepherd’s Bush, on today’s Hammersmith & City and Circle lines. There’s Wood Lane, a little south of today’s Wood Lane.
There’s the old White City, which was a total mess. At one point, it had had two platforms either side of a single track, which would be in use simultaneously. If you’d come from Central London, the doors would open and you’d get off on one side; at the same time, travellers looking to go back into the centre of town would get onto the train from the other side. It was like a freaking rollercoaster ride or something.
Then there’s Grove Road, which was on a bizarre Metropolian Railway branch from Paddington to Richmond. It sat just next to today’s Circle and Hammersmith & City station at Hammersmith, which is of course very different from the Piccadilly and District line station at Hammersmith.
(By this point I basically hate the tube, just so you know.)
And then there’s another Shepherd’s Bush, which was on the Metropolitan Railway’s branch from Latimer Road down to Kensington (Addison Road), which hasn’t closed but is now called Kensington (Olympia). This was just north of Uxbridge Road, which was just a tiny bit north of where today’s Shepherd’s Bush Overground station is.
It’s at this point that you realise we’ll all die learning about the liturgy of failures of the Metropolitan Railway.
I may boycott today’s line just to prove a point.
Then there’s the original Swiss Cottage, which closed in August 1940 when they opened the new branch of the Bakerloo line through to Stanmore (today’s Jubilee line) to ease congestion on the Metropolitan tunnels between Finchley Road and Baker Street. The station building and platforms were demolished to make way for an expansion of the Finchley Road trunk route.
There’s Lord’s, which was somewhere between today’s Baker Street and St. John’s Wood, but was demolished in the 1960s after it closed on 19 November 1939.
The third of the Baker Street to Finchley Road stations that died with the new Bakerloo (now Jubilee) tunnels was Marlborough Road.
We’ll all die reading this article. Image: Google Maps.
The station building is still there, looking a little confusing and out of place on the corner of Finchley Road and Queen’s Grove, just a little north of today’s St. John’s Wood station. That, too, closed on 19 November 1939.
Heading further north, there’s a great pile of station corpses, many of which are still in use as National Rail stations.
The first station after Amersham, Great Missenden, stopped being a London Underground station in 1961.
Help me. Image: Google Maps.
Looks enticing, doesn’t it.
Yep, 1961, Metroplitan, now Chiltern Railways.
I’m getting a theme of ‘disappointment’ here. Image: Google Maps.
You know the drill.
Wow. Image: Google Maps.
This one hides behind some trees, for some reason.
Yes, Aylesbury was on the London Underground network until the 1960s.
Slightly less depressing station building, though. Image: Google Maps.
This truly is a nonsensical world in which we live.
At this point we get into the realms of the really rather stupid ideas the Metropolitan Railway had back in the day.
There was Waddesdon Manor and then Quainton Road, of which we have an aerial photo to show quite how metropolitan it is today.
England’s green and pleasant land. Image: Google Maps.
Quainton Road was, as you can obviously tell, quite the transport hub.
In one direction, there was the Metropolitan Railway branch to Granborough Road, Winslow Road, and Verney Junction, which closed to passengers in July 1936.
On an ever so slightly interesting note, though, this does explain why loads of roads around here are called “Station Road”, even though there are no stations.
Bring your doggos here. Image: Google Maps.
Like this place, which is called “Station Kennels” on Station Road, and sits on the site of the old Winslow Road station.
Though a street view look at Verney Junction will help you understand why it made no sense for it to be part of the London Transport network.
I mean come on. Image: Google Maps.
Even more stupidly, there was a branch from Quainton Road out into the Buckinghamshire countryside that almost got as far as Oxford.
Though for much of its life it was known as the Brill Tramway, it was taken over by the Metropolitan Railway.
So to our abandoned stations list we can add Waddesdon Road, Westcott, Wootton, Church Siding, Wood Siding, and Brill.
Which is just brill, really.
Then there’s our friends on the Central line, who also went much too far into the countryside – this time into Essex.
Just beyond Epping is North Weald, which closed to London Underground services on 30 September 1994.
I’m already excited. Image: Google Maps.
It’s now a station on the novelty “Epping-Ongar Railway”, which is as much fun as it sounds.
The next stop along was Blake Hall, which closed on 2 November 1981, before the rest of the line, and so does not have the privilege of being part of the novelty line.
I see trees of green. Image: Google Maps.
It’s somewhere here-ish, but I’m not entirely certain. There are too many trees for anything to be clear.
This was the terminus of the Central line until it closed on 30 September 1994.
Now it’s the terminus of the super-fun Epping Ongar Railway, which has had a rather fitful life: it opened from 2004 until it failed in 2007, and then tried again in 2012 and has been sort of doing alright since then.
This looks like the kind of place that would give you Brexit and tell you to say thank you. Image: Google Maps.
It also has the dubious accolade of being, best I can tell, the only tube station at which a pornographic film has been shot.
The details are sketchy, but something saucy was filmed here in 2015 and everybody got uppity about the novelty line and station being a family destination.
King William Street
For all of you brave or stupid enough to stick it out this far, there’s King William Street.
It was the original terminus of the City & South London Railway – which is now the Northern line – which first ran from here down to Stockwell.
It was open for only ten years, from 1890 to 1900, and was closed on 24 February 1900, when the line extended north up towards Moorgate and took a different route, via today’s station at Bank.
There’s a plaque at the site of the old station, just off King William Street just south of Monument station, if you’re curious. It’s on Monument Street, right by the Little Waitrose.
I’m not doing Shoreditch because the East London Line is no longer part of the tube okay.
There you go.
I can’t believe I’ve actually done this.