Beneath the busy, bustling, metropolis of London lies a forgotten world; a labyrinth of twisting tunnels, cavernous caves and secret passageways hidden behind locked doors.

Sound intriguing? As well as scooping up a brand new publication on the history of the city’s underground, visitors to London can now take a tour to see it for themselves.

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Aldwych Station in London © Toby Madden and Andy Davis courtesy of The London Transport Museum.

Called Hidden London: Discovering the Forgotten Underground, the book was created by David Bownes, Chris Nix, Siddy Holloway and Sam Mullins of the London Transport Museum, with photography by Toby Madden and Andy Davis. Published by Yale University Press, it’s described as “an exploration of the abandoned tributaries of London’s vast and vital transportation network through breath-taking images and unexpected stories.”

A redundant fan impeller in a dark corner of disused York Road station © Toby Madden and Andy Davis courtesy of The London Transport Museum
A redundant fan impeller in a dark corner of disused York Road station © Toby Madden and Andy Davis courtesy of The London Transport Museum

The book is the first of its kind to focus on the mostly hidden side of London’s history, including abandoned stations, redundant passageways, empty elevator shafts, and cavernous ventilation ducts. With detailed imagery, it includes information about the deep-level shelter at Clapham South, the closed Aldwych station and the lost tunnels of Euston, and was written with access to previously unseen archives, architectural drawings, and images.

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At York Road station, the Edwardian ticket hall tiling design – with a border of green, glazed relief tiling – can still be seen against the red, cream and pink passageway © Toby Madden and Andy Davis courtesy of The London Transport Museum

Those wishing to explore the underground themselves can also now do so through the London Transport Museum’s Hidden London tour. The events see experienced guides taking visitors to disused stations and secret sites in different places across the city. 

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One of the tunnels under the Thames. The original gradient markers on the tunnel wall record just how steep the approach to the station was at this point © Toby Madden and Andy Davis courtesy of The London Transport Museum

Tours are available at locations such as Piccadilly Circus, Aldwych, Clapham South, 55 Broadway, Euston and Down Street, and packages can include cocktails, film clip screenings and special station architecture tours. At the Piccadilly Circus tour, visitors go behind secret doors to passageways and lift shafts closed to the public since 1929 and discover the original Edwardian design features, the stories of wartime sheltering and top-secret storage of priceless artefacts. 

More information is available at the official London Transport Museum website.

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