Aldwych Underground Station


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Aldwych Underground Station, SURREY STREET


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Statutory Address:
Aldwych Underground Station, SURREY STREET

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
City of Westminster (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Underground railway station. Built 1907 by the Underground Electric Railways Co of London Ltd (UERL) formed by Charles Tyson Yerkes, serving the Great Northern Piccadilly & Brompton Railway (GNP&BR), later the Piccadilly Line. Designed by Leslie Green.

Reasons for Designation

Aldwych Underground Station is designated for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: while among the most modest of the UERL stations, this is the only surviving example with two separate entrances, retaining early tiled signage on both elevations, including the original Strand station name * Interior: remarkably intact at all levels; one of only two Green stations (with Holloway Road) to retain its original ticket hall complete with booking offices, tiling and signage, and the only to retain the original lift enclosures, complete with lift machinery, and ladies and gentlemen's rooms with fittings; also for survival of extensive original tiling to stairs and lower levels * Rarity: for the retention of the original track on the E platform, the last example to survive in situ * Historic interest: the Yerkes group of stations designed by Leslie Green illustrate a remarkable phase in the development of the capital's transport system, with the pioneering use of a strong and consistent corporate image; the characteristic ox-blood faience façades are instantly recognisable and count among the most iconic of London building types


Aldwych Station, originally named Strand Station, formed part of the Great Northern Piccadilly & Brompton Railway (GNP&BR), one of three tube lines opened 1906-7 by the Underground Electric Railways Co of London Ltd (UERL). The City & South London Railway - the world's first deep tube line - had opened in 1890 from the City to Stockwell, and although a flurry of proposals for further routes ensued, progress was hampered by lack of capital. The Central London Railway (later the Central Line) opened in 1900 from Bank to Shepherd's Bush. From 1901-2 the American transport entrepreneur, Charles Tyson Yerkes, acquired four dormant companies: the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (CCE&HR); the Brompton & Piccadilly Circus Railway and the Great Northern & Strand Railway (GN&SR), which he merged as the GNP&BR, and the Baker Street & Waterloo Railway; the three were incorporated into the UERL. Yerkes died in 1905 before the tube lines were completed.

The GNP&BR, or 'Piccadilly Railway' or 'Tube', opened on 15 December 1906, running from the Great Northern & City Line terminus at Finsbury Park to the District Railway station at Hammersmith, with 16 intermediate stations, increased to 19 in 1907. A station at the Strand had been planned as the terminus of the GN&SR, but after the merger with the B&PCR it was left as a spur to the main line. In 1910 the three combined UERL tubes were formally merged as the London Electric Railway (LER) and the GNP&BR became the Piccadilly Line.

The Strand branch opened on 30 November 1907. Three lift shafts were drilled, but only one was installed with lifts. Apart from a short-lived late-night service for theatre-goers, the line never operated through trains to Strand, running a shuttle service to and from Holborn. The station was renamed Aldwych on 9 June 1915 to avoid confusion with the Charing Cross CCE&HR station which changed its name to Strand on that date. The number of commuters was far less than anticipated, and the second track closed in 1917. The station was closed during WWII for use as an air-raid shelter and the disused platform and running tunnel provided storage for artefacts from the British Museum. The station closed in 1994 due to the cost of renewing lift machinery, and since then has been used for filming and events.

Leslie Green (1875-1908) was appointed Architect to the UERL in 1903 and designed 40 stations for the company in a distinctive Edwardian Baroque house style clad in ox-blood faience. They followed a standardised design and plan adapted to the site. Interiors comprised a ground-floor ticket hall with lifts, a spiral stair down to lower corridors, and further stairs down to the platforms which were usually parallel. The upper storey housed lift machinery and office space. Most ticket halls featured deep-green tiling with a stylised acanthus-leaf or pomegranate frieze, and ticket windows with curved pediments. Aldwych, along with the other 'last' stations to open (Kentish Town, Tufnell Park and Archway) was built when finances had reached rock bottom so as a cost cutting exercise they had a timber version of the windows; this is the only one to survive. Stairs, corridors and platforms were faced in glazed tiles with directional signage, produced by various tile manufacturers, each station with its unique colour scheme. Green suffered ill health and his contract with UERL terminated at the end of 1907. He died the following year at the age of 33.


MATERIALS: Steel frame clad in brick, faced in ox-blood red faience produced by the Leeds Fireclay Co Ltd.

PLAN: The surface building occupies the irregular footprint of the Royal Strand Theatre that previously stood on the site. It has an inverted T-plan with an entrance and former booking hall to the north, and entrance from the east in Surrey Street, a pair of lifts to the south-west, and ladies and gentlemen's cloakrooms to the west. A parallel exit corridor lies to the south behind the lifts.

EXTERIOR: Aldwych was one of the few Leslie Green stations to have two separate façades. 2 storeys high. (E) elevation to Surrey Street has 3 main pilastered bays, the central slightly broader with a later shop front, plus a narrower bay to the left which has an entrance to the upper floors with an original panelled door with arched hood and fanlight. The first-floor windows date from c1928. Façade has early raised lettering denoting the entrance and exit, the frieze bearing the name PICCADILLY RLY. Above this is a dentilled cornice. N elevation to the Strand is of a single arched bay. Entrance has original iron transom with diamond lattice panels, and black-and-white tiled lettering above reading STRAND STATION. The upper storey has a timber Diocletian window in a keyed semi-circular arch with egg-and-dart moulding. The frieze also has early lettering: PICCADILLY RLY above which is a dentilled cornice.

INTERIOR: Ticket hall and S exit corridor have original tiling, which does not follow the earlier standard design, being in cream with a plain green frieze. Just inside the Strand entrance is a tiled sign reading ENTRANCE TO BOOKING HALL and further down a pair of original timber pedimented ticket office windows (there were originally three), each with a window above, with a tiled sign reading BOOK HERE. Opposite is a series of timber 1930s telephone booths; the doors have been removed. The lift enclosure has a panelled timber frontage with a dentilled cornice and art-nouveau ventilation grilles. Other features include coloured terrazzo flooring with black-banded borders, beamed ceilings with plaster cornices, doors and other joinery, timber poster panels, and fittings in the ladies' and gentlemen's rooms. The timber ticket office front on the south side dates from the 1980s and is not of special interest. The spiral stair and lower corridors have dado-height tiling in cream and deep turquoise-green. The W platform (that operated until 1994) also retains original tiling and STRAND signage, partly overpainted. The E platform (that ceased use in 1917) has been stripped back to the steel structure. The track is the last remaining in-situ section of original deep tube track, with no 'anti-suicide' pit (a feature introduced in 1926), timber sleepers, rails and Doulton rectangular insulators.


Books and journals
Croome, D, The Piccadilly Line: An Illustrated History, (1998)
Jackson, A A, Croome, D F , Rails through the Clay , (1993)
Lawrence, D, Underground Architecture, (1994)
Leboff, D, The Underground Stations of Leslie Green , (2002)
Menear, L, London Underground Stations: a social and architectural study, (1983)
Rose, D, Tiles of the Unexpected, (2007)
Wolmar, C, The Subterranean Railway , (2004)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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