For our last Hidden London tour of 2016, we headed for Euston – hardly where you would expect to find ‘lost’ stations given how central it is to the rail network both above and below ground. However, it’s Euston’s key role in the growth of transport both in and out of, and within, London that has left it with bits of lost underground architecture and a wonderful below ground time capsule.
It is unsurprising that the early underground railway entrepreneurs sought to make a connection with the thriving Euston railway station which, within just a few years of its opening in 1837 was growing passenger numbers rapidly. In the end, two separate underground companies built stations there, initially with buildings just outside the main station. An entrance on the main concourse followed in 1907, and by 1914, very few were using the original entrances, so they both closed in 1914. One was demolished in 1934, but the other still stands, housing a ventilation shaft for what has now become the Northern Line, but giving itself away externally with its classic Leslie Green red tiling.
Given that the building might not survive that much longer as it sits in the area earmarked for Euston’s HS2 expansion, that was an interesting enough hors d’oeuvre in its own right, but the main course of the trip was yet to come. We headed off down through the main Underground station, onto the old platforms, and off through one of those doors you always wonder where they lead. In this case, it was a set of connecting foot tunnels that originally ran between the original two underground lines but which were bypassed when the Victoria Line was constructed. This meant that, barring some electrical ducting and connection to a stretch of new tunnel to turn them into air vents for the new line, we were walking through tunnels left untouched since they closed to the public on 29 April 1962. Fortunately, the 1960s form of tube advertising saw posters glued directly onto the tiling along the full length of the tunnels, which gave us a true timewarp experience. A little detective work was necessary, as 54 years of exposure and the odd bit of work has removed parts of them, but we were presented with a time capsule of the products and especially films of the time, including Spartacus, A Kind of Loving, Ocean’s 11, and West Side Story.
The history of Euston, and in particular the Doric arch that fell victim to modernisation in the early 60s, is extremely well documented, so I won’t attempt to replicate it here. Likewise, we’re now waiting for news of next year’s Hidden London tours to be released, so there’s little point in promotion them any further than I have, so I’ll leave this article with a gallery of those old posters, and let you see what else you can spot…