The London Underground is one of the city's most iconic creations. The first underground railway, the Tube has grown from a single line joining Paddington and Farringdon to a complex interconnection of underground and over-ground lines that service the majority of Greater London, as well as parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.
But like any growing and changing entity sometimes parts of it are no longer required and were shut down. But London is a city of growth and regeneration, and the numerous disused Tube stations dotted around the city have been put to surprising uses over the years.
- On Film. There's something visually arresting about underground tunnels and Tube stations, so it's little wonder they've been used regularly for filming locations over the years. The latest Bond film, Skyfall, featured a breathtaking chase scene through the abandoned Jubilee Line platforms at Charing Cross. But it's Aldwych that's seen the most impressive use. As a self-contained section of the network, and one that was closed at weekends and also for periods on weekdays, Aldwych was a popular shooting location even before it closed in 1994. It's been featured in numerous films, either as itself or other stations, including The Krays, Atonement, Patriot Games and 28 Weeks Later.
- Arts Venues. Many Tube stations are more than just engineering marvels, they often have beautiful architectural features and materials. Old Shoreditch Station has now been transformed into a café/bar and music venue and the grey stone and Victorian styling gives it a perfect ambiance. Although it's a small site, the abandoned station now plays host to lively pop-up shops, product launches, fashion and design exhibitions and arts events.
- Bunkers. Given their location under the streets of London, it's no surprise abandoned stations were used by Churchill and his war time cabinet as an air raid shelter and command centre. Active stations were regularly used throughout the conflict to shelter citizens during the Blitz. Some disused stations were even used to house important works of art.
- Homes. A couple of disused stations have also been put to use for residential purposes. The original entrance to Chancery Lane was briefly used as a parade of shops but has since been developed into the lobby for an exclusive apartment block. Blake Hall station was widely known as the least used on the entire system. At the time of its closure in 1981, it was carrying just six passengers a day. It has since been converted into a private residence, although the station building is over ground.
London's ability to regenerate and find uses for the old and unwanted is a testament to the energetic spirit of the city. Next time you're in town be sure to explore its hidden nooks. You never know what you'll find.
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