diamond geezer

 Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tubewatch (43) Mark Lane
Not all of central London's abandoned tube stations are deep-level showstoppers. Take, for example, Mark Lane on the District line. Named after a minor back road in the City, this lost station's rarely on anyone's radar. But if you know where to look, just to the west of Tower Hill station, all the signs are there.

The District Railway's had three different underground stations in the vicinity of the Tower of London, of which Mark Lane's the awkward middle child. The first was opened in 1882, called Tower of London, but that wasn't especially large and had to close two years later when the Circle line was first introduced. Mark Lane was built a few hundred yards to the west, close to All Hallows By The Tower. Architecturally speaking it was a fairly standard cut-and-cover station, rather like Temple today, with platforms not far below street level reached down simple staircases. Mark Lane survived the best part of the 20th century but eventually proved too small for the onslaught of city folk and tourists, and was closed in 1967. Its replacement was located on the precise site of the former Tower of London station, complete with additional central platform for reversing trains, and that's the one we know as Tower Hill today. Mark Lane's westbound platform was demolished to make way an extra track, but the eastbound platform remains intact, if rather worse for wear. Look carefully and you can see the platform out of the window of a passing train a short distance outside Tower Hill. Watch out for the moment when the tunnel wall disappears and a dark and gloomy recess takes its place. No passengers have been down here for 45 years, but TfL still use it for storage - including at present an infeasibly large pile of ladders.

There are further clues above ground, even though Mark Lane's original building's long demolished. In 1911 the station entrance was incorporated into an office block, which you can still see on the corner of Byward Street and Seething Lane. Scan along the row of arches at ground level, ignoring the grand central porch which is actually the doorway into the offices above. The station entrance was two arches to the left, beneath a long rectangular panel, inside what's now an All Bar One where tourists slurp beer. The arches on either side were occupied by a newsagent and a confectioners, with one of these now the entrance to a very ordinary-looking subway beneath the street. But it's not quite so ordinary-looking below ground. The walls are lined with painted iron girders, which are here because this was formerly the station footbridge. At each end is a floor-to-ceiling grille, and these mark the top of the staircases down to the westbound and eastbound platforms. You'll not see much, if anything, if you try peering through. But stand here long enough and you'll hear the rumble of trains on the tracks immediately below, loud as life. You'll get no closer to Mark Lane than this, unless you're one of those naughty urban adventurers who like trespassing on TfL property for kicks. That may not be recommended, but if you do ever sneak inside, pray nobody's peering at you from a passing carriage.

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