diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 28, 2019

The latest exhibition at the London Transport Museum is called Hidden London. It's in the same two-floor gallery at the back where special exhibitions are usually held, but dressed up rather better than most. Wander up close to what looks like a boarded up station entrance and the automatic doors magically open, and in you go.

First up, impressively, is Aldwych station. It even looks like it might be Aldwych station, with an original ticket window, what might be tiles and a poster announcing the termination of service. Robert Elms is busy interviewing one of the last members of staff, or at least his disembodied voice is, and plans for station construction are displayed in the corner. It sets a high bar. My favourite factoid is that London Underground went to the expense of installing electronic gates and a new ticket office in the late 1980s, only to close the station permanently a few years later.

Step through to discover King William Street, one of the first deep level tube stations and one of the very first to become disused. A solitary glass insulator block on the wall is a reminder that what's left of the station, platforms and all, has recently been sacrificed as part of the Bank upgrade (19th century passageways repurposed for 21st century commuters). Where else can we head? Ongar, with its zero point and "tidiness" certificate. Highgate, with its never-used waiting rooms and bat boxes. South Kentish Town, whose ticket hall is now a Cash Converters. And Down Street, where a commercial development opportunity alas led to "no viable applications".

The Underground was first used for filming in the 1920s, and by the 1960s Aldwych (closed weekends) was the premier shooting location. Take a seat and you can watch clips from a medley of movies filmed underground, including the chirpy wartime kneesup Gert and Daisy's Weekend, the gruesome Death Line and the frankly astonishing The Boy Who Turned Yellow (rarely has the Children's Film Foundation been so jaundiced).

The spiral staircase between floors has been cunningly integrated into the exhibition so it almost feels like you're descending into the depths. Down below you'll find Down Street proper, or at least a military telephone that won't shut up and a room set out like an austere canteen watched over by a virtual waiter. The ground floor is almost all wartime related, following up with the Plessey factory on the as-yet-unopened Central line and everything you ever needed to know about floodgates under the Thames. A significant chunk of space is given over to wartime shelters, like those at Clapham South, and there's even mention of how unopened North End station beneath Hampstead Heath was set aside to be used as a civil defence location in case of nuclear war.

In case you hadn't twigged, the Hidden London exhibition is actually a huge unspoken plug for the museum's Hidden London tours, now available in several locations... at a price. Descent into Clapham South will set you back £35, trips round the lesser known passages of Euston and Piccadilly Circus £41.50, and the grand prize of Down Street a massive £85. Aldwych is sold out, sorry. You do get half price admission to the London Transport Museum for your trouble, where you can enjoy the Hidden London exhibition for nothing, but I remain unconvinced the package is worth the dosh. A lottery ticket gets you inside the exhibition for free today and tomorrow, or come explore any time before February 2021.

I hadn't been to the London Transport Museum in ages because the high cost of entry (£18 on the door) always puts me off. Wandering round I was reminded how really very good it is, jam packed with interesting stuff and backed up with fascinating in depth information on the walls. But I also noticed that little had changed since my last visit in 2011, other than a fresh Thameslink subsection, a careers guide aimed at kids and a Crossrail 2 display on the way out. All the rest I'd read before, indeed some of the text dating back to the museum's 2007 refresh was already out of date (cough, "Ninety percent of bus journeys are made in suburban areas so Transport for London produces a large number of local guides", cough).

Which begs the question, what is the optimum period for returning to a museum with a steep entrance price? Eight years for the LTM felt about right, plus there was the Hidden London exhibition as a bonus. My trip to Kew Gardens this week came seven years after my last in 2012, which in turn was seven years since 2005. How long does it take to 'forget' enough about a place to be able to enjoy it enough on a next visit... or is it only favourite museums we happily return to again and again? Whatever, I'll probably pencil in another visit around 2026 (or the next time there's a very special offer and admission's unexpectedly free).

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream