I've often walked past the shuttered entrance to the Strand station (on the Strand) and been intrigued by what must be inside. I was walking past on 25 November and was surprised to see the doors were open and people actually inside. As I'm inquisitive (well a nosy parker really) I approached the men at the entrance and was told that the London Transport Museum was opening the station to visitors over a couple of weekends this year. This tends to happen every year, but they couldn't guarantee that these would continue. After some persuasion, and after handing over £20, I was allowed inside and taken down to one of the platforms and joined a tour group.
After WWII began, Londoners took it into their own hands to seek shelter in the tunnels and finally the Home Secretary relented and gave permission. The station was also used to house artefacts from the Victoria and Albert and British Museums (including the Elgin Marbles). At the height of the Blitz up to 3,000 people sheltered every night. To cater for them there were bunks, chemical toilets, a first aid post, a canteen, a library, entertainments and Sunday evening religious services.
After the war London Transport used the second platform at Aldwych (as the station was renamed) as an experimental area for later station designs. Aldwych was closed for good in 1994, but is still used for film sets (including the James Bond 'The Quantum of Solace' and for training staff for the Underground's Emergency Response Unit.
Although the eastern platform has not seen a train since about 1914, it was strange to see advertising posters from the 1970s on the walls. Apparently London Transport experimented with different types of glue, that would later be used on stations that were still in use.
The station will be open again to the public next weekend (2, 3 and 4 December). Contact the London Transport Museum for further information. Also bear in mind that there are no longer any functioning lifts and that the platforms are 175 stairs below ground level, and another 175 back up again.
Thanks Sandra, great to hear a first-hand account of this and see some decent photos of it. This is something I'd love to so but like you say, it only opens a couple of times a year. London Transport should really open it up more often, I'm sure the demand is there. It's a fascinating part of London's history. Nice little story about the posters too. Twenty pounds seems a bit steep, though I bet it was worth it. I wonder, when you're down there, can you hear underground trains rumbling by, as of course the Piccadilly line still runs close by. It must be rather eerie....
Thanks for the comments Trev. £20 is the cost whether you book in advance or turn up on spec as I did. You get about 45 minutes underground for this sum, plus a 10% discount at the LT Museum shop.
You can't hear the trains at all. The original, Strand, platform is bricked up at both ends, but the newer, Aldwych, platform is open and you can see down the tunnel (which is lit up) towards Holborn.
Do you mind me asking how you seem to get the lowdown on so many festivals and events before they've even happened? It's not feasible to take actual photographs before the event, unless they're taken from a website.
Thanks for this post Sandra - I'm annoyed at myself for not realising that they open from time time and although it's sold out for this weekend I'll be looking out for future openings. Loved the photos of the posters.