About a year ago, I did two things in quick succession – I went to London (after not visiting England since I left at the age of 4, some 23 years ago), and then pretty quickly afterwards I read Neverwhere, a Neil Gaiman novel set in a fictionalised London Underground, using some of the shut down stations for its inspiration (among other things).
Ever since then, I’ve been really fascinated by the whole concept of all these shut down stations, and am slowly learning just how many have been shut down, for what reasons, and what has become of them. Earlier today I discovered some articles on the extremely interesting londonist.com that looked into this very topic, and found this amazing picture:
Pretty impressive, huh?
Many of these old tube stations are now bricked off and difficult to access, looking perhaps a little like this inside:
I also found this page – http://londonist.com/2011/02/what-shall-we-do-with-the-old-tube-station.php – to be quite interesting, as it looks at a few different stations and what they have become since they closed down. I’d love to go to some of these places and visit them, see if it is easy to recognise the station architecture still.
My interest in what lies beneath London will only grow though, and one book that has caught my interest is Peter Ackroyd’s London Under. This book looks at not just the tube stations but all the history lying underneath the great city, from Roman amphitheatres to Victorian sewers, Bronze Age trackways, the monastery of Whitefriars and so much more. I haven’t yet got my hands on this one, but when I do I suspect I’ll gobble it up in a single sitting.
It’s really no wonder that so many stories can and do come from the London Underground, with so much history there. When I think of how many other cities around the world must have their own stories to tell…it makes me yearn to put on both my historian and writer caps, and start seeing these things with my own eyes!
What stories do you know of the London Underground? What about any cities where you live – do they have their own hidden pasts?
I wonder if you have read any of the Bryant and May mysteries by Christopher Fowler. He has an amazing knowledge of hidden London and writes stories about a pair of old codgers working in the Peculiar Crimes Unit. I think you may enjoy them. I am on my fourth and admit that some have been better than others but for information about hidden London including the Tube and the Victorian Drainage systems they are fascinating.
Oooh interesting, I’ll have to add these to my TBR list! Thanks! 🙂
Of course I forgot to mention, you may not know but there are many hidden tunnels under the city of Liverpool http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williamson_Tunnels
Ahhh cool, I did not know that! Though it’s not surprising, I imagine there’s a few cities in England with hidden undergrounds! I’ll have to check this out, and maybe research into other cities too (I sense a trend coming on in my curiosity).
Ackroyd’s book looks really interesting. The Paris Metro has a few ghost stations too although not as many as London.
Cool, I’ll have to look into the Paris Metro. Both the whole visiting Paris in the first place, but also looking into the ghost stations and the history. Geeze I love that part of the world! 😀
This sounds so interesting! When I was studying in London a few years ago, I had a friend at the uni who was fascinated by the ghost stories of the Underground. I remember riding the Tube with him and him just telling me ghost stories the whole time — they really were fascinating. I’m sure it would also be really interesting to read about everything else that goes/went on under London as well!
Yeah, it seems like there is a lot of people fascinated with it, and I can see why! I definitely don’t think this will be my last post on it. 🙂
In some places, if you keep a careful eye out between stations you can actually see the old and unused ones.
You know, I think I may have noticed that when I was riding around on the tube. Though they tend to go past so fast if you blink you miss them!
There have been several books and movies that explore living underneath in abandoned parts of a city. I think Divergent by Veronica Roth uses this as well as Downsiders by Neil Shusterman. I believe the movie Reign of Fire began with them poking about in the tubes. And I don’t know why I read or watch them because I do not like dark places!
Ahh cool, I have heard quite a bit about Divergent actually (haven’t read it though). It is such a fascinating type of place to explore, it’s not surprising I guess that so many authors and directors like to use such settings. 🙂
I love this sort of thing! There was a program on the History Channel, here, that explored a lot of the underground places in a series called Cities of the Underground. It was so fascinating. I’m sure Peter Ackroyd’s book will be just as interesting.
In Winnipeg, not enough history has happened, yet, although we do have the first jail located under a local business, but it isn’t accessible to the public. There are underground tunnels in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, which is about a 6 hours drive away, that were supposedly used during prohibition by Al Capone. They are now used as a tourist attraction. I’m sure that Toronto probably has some hidden places and maybe places in Quebec. None of them can compare to the thousand of years of history that lies beneath the cities in Europe, though. Someday, I really hope I get the chance to see some of them for myself. 🙂
Oooh, I’ll have to look for that series you’re talking about, it sounds right up my alley! 😀
We have the same issue across most of Australia – there just isn’t enough of that kind of history. I think though that does make seeing these places around Europe so much more amazing for those of us from countries with less history 🙂
Pingback: Credit Where Credit’s Due | Reading For The Masses