Exploring Down Street Abandoned Tube Station

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to explore the disused Down Street tube station in Mayfair. Down Street is on a side road between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner, and the Piccadilly Line served this station. The station was not open for very long. It was opened in 1907 and shut its doors in 1932 due to lack of use. Its placement here was controversial because many people that lived in the area did not use public transport. Although it was closed in 1932, it had a new lease of life in 1939 as a secret headquarters for the railway board executivies during World War II. It is often referred to as "Churchill's Secret Bunker". The staff at TFL (Transport for London) are continuously researching and discovering how the station was used during the war times, but most of the government secrets are off limits currently and won't be accessibly by the public until 2040.

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The tube station is easy to notice because of its glossy tiles that identify it; in Down Street's case, the tiles are dark red. The large arched windows and wide doorways also identify it as a tube station, although one of the doorways has been bricked over while the other is home to a small shop.

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Upon arriving on the train/platform level, we were told about the station's use during World War II. The first bit of tunnel was sectioned off and became the area for typists. The walls were painted a mustard yellow colour, and we could see where the floor was levelled and the partition wall was added on one side. The side with the partition wall formed a room with an aisle down one side. The aisle was just large enough for a tea trolley (or a person to walk single-file). On this wall, there are directions to the Enquries and Committee Room, and there's "Way Out" signs in the same style on other walls. Before the room was a gas seal-off door, and there were several of these throughout the station. The rooms were all purpose-made, and the public was not aware of the secret bunker here.

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We were also shown the glow-in-the-dark strips along the lower part of the tunnel walls, which enable visitors to find their way in case the electricity is off.

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The next tunnel was also divided into rooms: offices and the committee room. One of the rooms here was where Churchill stayed during bombing raids. Throughout our tour, we were shown photographs on the wall of people inside these rooms, and we could identify where walls, lights, and clocks had been attached. In the photograph above, the placement of the table in the photograph is outlined on the floor. The aisleway would have been to the left, and the flooring also demonstrates how the rooms were broken up.

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Off of the meeting room, we were shown the toilets and bath facilities, which were located through a door that went up a staircase. These separate rooms were divided up with the facilities. Apparently the women had to kick up a fuss to have separate facilities. The furnishings were also top of the range. The next few photographs shows some of these rooms and what remains.

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Further down the hallway, we came to the section where we could see the tube train passing between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line. There were sections throughout the remainder of the tour where we could see the trains, separated by just a thin wall. We continued until we branched off into a separate tunnel where the exchange and switch board are located. These were located in two separate rooms. 

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The switch board has fine wooden panel, which we could see by shining a light to it.

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Opposite the switchboard is old-style tiling forming a very Art-Deco "Way Out" sign.

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We arrived at further rooms that were used by the executives. Some of these included the original lighting. Many of these rooms were painted grey over the mustard yellow. Someone suggested they may have been painted for preparations on tube evacuation teams or filming a submarine movie.

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A map of the layout of the rooms is also present.

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We were shown the executive rooms and the bedrooms, and we could see which rooms were fancier because they had wallpaper. After this, we were shown the kitchen and dining area.

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The new development and research suggests that the last part of the tour is exciting because it's the area at the back (by the air flow) that Churchill had asked to be purposed into his area. Rooms were created here with a toilet near the top of the step and a room on the left. The room had a phone line that went direct to the USA. They're not exactly sure who used these rooms, but it is clear that they are used by VIPs. A picture of the room is below, but there's actually another similar bricked-up wall a few steps down the tunnel. It's completely bricked up, but it probably has some significance. 

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On the other side of this area, we saw more yellow paint, and this is covering the original signage. "To The Trains" can be seen beneath the layer of paint.

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Also, the original signage showing the platform directions can also be seen here. Finsbury Park points to the left, and Hammersmith points to the right. Unfortunately, someone ruined the wall and lettering when they installed some ladders and pipework over the top of it.

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Next, we saw the lift shaft. My photographs did not come out because there was not enough room to see, and the lighting was not bright enough. On the other side of the lift shaft was the tile manufacturer name Simpson & Sons, who created the tiles. This is a rare find.

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Out of the lifts, the commuters would have been directed to the trains via this "To the Trains" sign.

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On street level, we received a booklet with more information about Down Street station.

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I would love to know more about this station and the history of it as it seems that there's still so much more to know that cannot become the public domain until 100 years are up. Unfortunately, by that time, the people who did work in the tunnels would no longer be able to talk about them.

For readers who have enjoyed this post, I have also visited additional disused and abandoned underground stations in London. I also have a couple of more trips to visit other ones coming up, so be sure to keep following me. Below are previous posts:

Paddock World War 2 Bunker
Aldwych Station
Euston Station Tunnels

On Thursday, at the height of Storm Doris ripping through London and the rest of the country, street artist Amara Por Dios returned to the streets to start off her year of murals in London. Born and raised in Sweden, Amara por Dios has been painting graffiti since she was 12 and she prefers to paint her feminine tribal-inspired characters. These are usually painted in bright and bold colours, usually pink or purple. These have significance to her Chilean and South American heritage, and she moved to London in 2013 and is a regular street artist painting walls in the city. 

Her newest addition is a portrait of two feminine characters in Star Yard.

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Previous posts about Amara por Dios in this blog include:

Amara Por Dios and Flesh031 Collaborate on 'Urban Jungle' in Soho
Amara Por Dios paints for International Women's Day
Artista and Atomik (with Amara por Dios)
Street art by Amara por Dios glows in the dark
New street art by Artista, Saki, and Amara Por Dios
Amara Por Dios: Village Underground wall and other walls
New street art on Bacon Street by Amara Por Dios, Saki and others

Street artist Pang has returned to create her first large-scale mural in London this year, named "Carnival of the Weird" which depicts several body parts and faces in odd positions and situations. I originally covered Pang here, when I happened to see a lot of her early ash trays and cowboy figures appear around London's walls. Since then, became well-known in the street art scene and has even collaborated with Ben Murphy and Christain Nagel. She moved to Lisbon in July of 2016.

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For more information about Pang, view her official Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pangpangus or her website at https://hausofpang.com

For more posts on Pang, see:

Street art: Pang
Collaboration with Ben Murphy
Collaboration with Christain Nagel

Previously this year, London-based street artist Zabou painted a collaboration piece with Koeone on Hackney Road. This week, she has returned to paint a portrait of Salvador Dali and the crazy mustache, looking intensely at the viewer and holding one of the "melting" clocks that the artist Salvador Dali is famous for painting. The clock has been incorporated into the shutter and falls onto the pavement.

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Zabou is originally from France, but she has been based in London for awhile. Her unique style is to create portraits of people, usually depicted in a witty or thought-provoking manner. Previous examples of Zabou's street art can be found on the following links in my blog:

Koeone and Zabou Collaborate
"Keep Out!" Street Art by Zabou
Zabou's 'Cabinet of Curiosity' Street Art
Leake Street Tunnels Street Art, Spring 2016
Recent Street Art by Zabou
Street Art: Zabou

Old Newspaper Archive

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I love looking at old newspapers, magazines, and advertisements. They display aspects of life of days gone by, from illustrated images to old-style fonts, the stories published and how these stories were written, and letters/poetry/short stories from readers. In today's world, the newspaper is not as popular and more and more people seem to be accessing news from the Internet on their computer or on their mobile phone. (I commute by train and underground to work, and although we have the option to obtain free publications in the morning and the evening, I still notice many who simply use their mobile phone or browse a news website during their lunch break.)

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I have come across copies of old publications on newspapers on Google's website, and an archive of these newspapers is here: http://news.google.com/newspapers

Although an extensive list, I would love to see more newspapers added to Google's archives.

Visiting Caerphilly Castle

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After touring The Royal Mint Exhibition, I decided to head over to one of the castles that I've not visited in order to tick it off my list: Caerphilly Castle. Caerphilly Castle, located in the village of Caerphilly just north of Cardiff, is a Norman castle that was built in the mid/late-1200s. It was Wales's largest castle and survived a siege and was the place where a king took refuge. The castle fell into disrepair in the 15th century with the lake being drained and stone robbed, but was taken over by a rich coal mining family in the late 1700s and repaired in more modern times. 

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The castle is surrounded by a moat with a bridge leading up to the gatehouse. The earth has been built up so the castle is on a hillside, and the perimeter of the earthworks can be walked around. The castle is located in the town centre, which is the other side of the earthworks.

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We walked walked across the bridge over the moat to get to the first gatehouse. Inside this inner area was the gift shop where we purchased our tickets and a statue of a red dragon. Some of the castle grounds could be accessed here, but in order to get to the main castle area, we had to walk across another bridge.

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On the left as we approached the gatehouse, we saw the leaning tower. The tower has been leaning since the 17th century. 

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After we entered the gatehouse, we decided to see what was inside. We passed through a few white-washed rooms, a garderobe, and some larger floors with large chimneys and an area with seating. We could also walk onto the old walls from the gatehouse. Below shows the interior of the castle yard, a view from one of the walls.

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After we explored that gatehouse, we walked to the end gatehouse. On the left is the Great Hall, but sadly this was closed for us because they were setting up for Macbeth. In fact, a lot of areas were off limits to us due to this play. It's a pity we could not see it because the Great Hall is the finest building in a castle.

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At the back side of the gatehouse, the defenses were stunning. This was a dead end with huge, thick walls.

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After walking through the gatehouse, I looked back to the opposite gatehouse that we explored earlier. The Great Hall is the building on the right.

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At the back gatehouse, we could climb for a view, and it had impressive interiors.

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We then walked the last of the walls. On one side of the walls, they re-constructed the wooden hoarding. This hoarding offered a little more protection. This is where the archers would be, and they could shoot through the small windows here. On the other side is the wall.

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After that, we had seen everything, so we headed out. In the main entrance, I said goodbye to the red dragon here. The ground was muddy, and goose poo was everywhere in the grass, so I didn't get a better photograph.

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The town of Caerphilly greeted us on the other side of the walls.

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The geese and ducks also greeted us on entry and exit of the castle grounds. 

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As the weather was so chilly, a hot chocolate bought from the shop opposite the castle grounds was in order.

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Have you ever visited Caerphilly Castle? Leave your comments.

Street Art: Elly What The Funk

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Elly What the Funk (also known as Helen Martin) paints images of people on pages of old novels, newspapers, and sheet music. She pasted up a few of her artworks in London at the end of January and earlier this month. Some of them appear to be in a series with teary eyes while others are more stylised. I do not know much about the artist and cannot find a lot about her online.

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Tears and Shhhhhhhhh

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No more tears

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Valentine's Day tribute

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For more information on Elly What the Funk, visit her Pictaram site here: http://www.pictaram.com/user/elly_what_the_funk/856026944

Recent WRDSMTH (Wordsmith) Street Art

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In January, California-based street artist WRDSMTH added more paste-ups to the streets of London. I originally covered the artist last spring when he collaborated with C3. WRDSMTH creates stenciled typewriter artwork with additional paste-ups with typed though-provoking or silly quotations. He adds these to walls and telephone boxes. When the artist isn't adding to the street art scene, he writes for Hollywood. I've managed to photograph a few of WRDSMTH's paste-ups, but I wasn't able to get all of them. The telephone box pieces never seem to last long.

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No matter what happens, I'm coming with you

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I'm secretly building a time machine. Don't laugh or I'll come punch you when you're nine.

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I've fallen in love. The falling is great. But it scars.

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Smile. It's an old school status update.

WRDSMTH's work is always popular in London, and I notice a lot of people enjoy it and get their photographs taken with the quotations. For more information about WRDSMTH, visit the official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WRDSMTHinLA/

Colourful Portrait Paste-ups by Manyoly

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Manyoly is a street artist from Marseille, France. She is a self-taught painter and opened a gallery in her teenage years. She has travelled around Singapore to create and study art. Portraits of women are the primary subject of the artist, who enjoys hearing stories of the subjects painted. Last month, Manyoly went to London and added several colourful poirtraits of women to the walls. Most of the images are multi-coloured, but one uses blues and others are in monotone.

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Manyoly pasted these up at the same time as Donk arrived to London to paste up a few pieces of artwork.

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Manyoly and DONK

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For more information about Manyoly, see the official Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/manyoly.artiste/

Happy Valentine's Day with Lola's Cupcakes

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Today is a Tuesday, and it is Valentine's Day. Last year, it fell on a Sunday, and the bloke and I have done something for the day for the past couple of years. Last year, we went all out for it with dinner at the Great Hall in Harry Potter's Hogwarts (at Warner Brother Studios). On the big day itself, we had a trip in the cable car with champagne and chocolates. The year before that, we played Swingers Crazy Golf pop-up (before it opened a non-pop up branch) in Shoreditch. This year, we've just had a normal day at work. However, I received a surprise tin from Lola's cupcakes when I arrived home. (We're not able to cook as we don't have a kitchen yet, and flowers are off limits as we are confined to sharing a single room with the cat; cats prefer to eat and play with flowers instead of admire them.)

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Lola's came with a cute decorated tin that has four cupcakes, a miniature bottle of champagne (with two straws, but don't try to drink champagne using a straw as I found out the hard way), and a single red rose.

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Happy Valentine's Day!

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