Known the world over for being the oldest rapid transport system in existence, the London Underground celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. With over 400km of track and 270 stations, the aptly named ‘Tube’ services 1.265 billion passengers in a year. And with such a long service history, it is only natural that the Underground carries its fair share of secrets…
Just off a street in Bayswater is Leinster Gardens. Seemingly ordinary from the pavement, two of the townhouses are actually fakes!
Back in the 1860s, the original tube trains were steam-engine locomotives. Although the machines were fitted with condensers to reduce fumes, the trains still needed to vent off in short open air sections of the railway.
In this upmarket areas of town, the railway company hid this practise of ’venting off’ from the local residents by constructing 5 foot thick facades at No. 23-24 Leinster Gardens. The fakery also maintained the continuous frontage of the prestigious terrace.
In the 1930s, a hoax was played on guests who were sold tickets to a charity ball in Leinster Gardens. Guests turned up in evening dress only to discover the addresses were a fake! Cheeky!
There are a number of lost stations on the Underground. Probably one of the most famous is Aldwych. The station was closed in 1994 when the lifts to the concourses were becoming more and more uneconomical to fix.
Opened in 1907 with the name ‘Strand’, it was the terminus and only station on the short Piccadilly line branch from Holborn. During its lifetime, the station was the subject of a number of unrealized extension plans that would have linked the station to Waterloo.
Disused areas of the station and tunnel were used throughout the two World Wars as air raid shelters and to protect artwork and artifacts from the surrounding museums and galleries. Nowadays, the station is used as a filming location for television, film and music videos, and is honoured for its historical significance as a Grade II listed building.
Other lost stations include Kingsway Tram Subway, Down Street, Mark Lane and Brompton Road, which became the Royal Artillery’s anti-aircraft control centre during the ‘Blitz’.
Quick Fire Secrets
- The journey between Knightsbridge and South Kensington is longer than it ought to have been, as the tube has to bypass an ancient burial pit! However, the journey between St James Park and Westminster is not so fortunate; there are bodes piled up either side of the tunnel walls!
- There are species of mosquito and mouse unique to the Underground. The mosquitoes, aptly named ‘London Underground Mosquito’, have mutated from bird-biting form that colonised the underground when it was built in the last century. Now, they bite rats, mice and maintenance workers! Scientists say the mosquitoes do not mate with their outdoor counterparts, indicating that they have become a separate species.
With a 151 year history, the Underground would be hard-pushed to not be residence for the odd ghost!
Aldgate, in the City of London, is situated between Liverpool Street and Tower Hill and was opened in 1876. It was built on the site of a plague pit, which contained around a thousand bodies. An electrician working at the station a number of years ago was electrocuted by over 20,000 volts of electricity and should have died on the spot. However, the man survived with his colleagues citing that a transparent figure of an old lady had stood alongside him whilst he gained consciousness.
Probably, the most famous ghost on the London Underground has been noted to reside at the abandoned British Museum station, which closed in 1933. The ghost who is said to reside here is that of an ancient Egyptian princess mummy, from the nearby museum. Dressed in impressive garb, the phantom of the deceased princess is said to scream in the tunnels and can be heard from Holborn station further down the line.