Brompton Road is one of the many 'ghost stations' on the Tube network. The erstwhile stop on the Piccadilly Line was deemed too close to Knightsbridge and South Kensington to be viable, and was closed in 1934. Much of the site, including the surface building, lift shafts and middle layers, was sold to the Ministry of Defence, who still own it today.
We were offered a tour of the facility by The Old London Underground Company, an organisation devoted to resurrecting these subterranean spaces. They'd negotiated access with the MoD in order to film a news piece for German television. We tagged along like eager Jack Russell puppies on a first trip to the park.
The station is still very obvious at ground level. Its distinctive Leslie Green facade, covered with familiar red glazed tiles, is a minor landmark along Brompton Road, beside the Oratory. The upper levels are used by the MoD as town HQ for the University of London Air Squadron and Royal Naval Unit. They have a pleasant little bar up there, as it happens, as well as an ample roof terrace and sizeable drill hall available for public hire (recently borrowed by Take That for rehearsals).
But we're here to see tunnels. Access is via a door in the basement, plastered in warning notices. Beyond the portal, there's no electricity. We make our way by torchlight.
Every inch of the tunnels is covered in a thick layer of dust, and we'd later emerge looking like Dick van Dyke. Yet the station remains largely intact and free of debris. We carefully decend the spiral stairway. An adjacent lift shaft is bisected with flooring, effectively creating a four-storey building for MoD use. It has long been abandoned, but signs remain here and there of its wartime past. The facility was used during WWII to coordinate the city's air defences. In one room, a detailed map of south-east London is still pinned to the wall (see images).
We spend a good hour exploring the various rooms. There are many sizeable chambers that could be put to effective use if the Old London Underground Company were to fix the place up for visitors. The space would be ideal for an immersive theatre show, for example, by the likes of Punchdrunk. The station retains plenty of period features including a distinctive brown and green tiling pattern and electrical switch gear. A set of oxygen scrubbers can also be seen, presumably a wartime leftover.
The MoD's jurisdiction ends at a locked gate. Beyond lies the two platforms of the Piccadilly Line. These were bricked up many years ago, but access to the trains is still possible, as this report shows. A gust of air wheezes through the tunnels whenever a train passes by. This is a dark, forbidding place, but a breath of life remains.
Click through the gallery above for a guided tour of the station. Ian Visits also has some photos.
We thank The Old Underground Company for arranging the visit, and the staff and cadets of the University of London Air Squadron for being such welcoming hosts.