"Looking forward to your day at work?"
"Yeah, actually, I'm going down a ghost station."
"You know, one of those abandoned tube stations. It's Down Street."
"No, Down Street. On the Piccadilly Line between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner."
If this n=1 sample of Holborn coffee baristas is anything to go by, the general public haven't really heard of Down Street station. They soon will, if Transport for London's plans to reuse the disused station achieve fruition.
TfL has got itself some architects in, sizing up the building for possible reuse. Quirky restaurant? Historical attraction? Art gallery? Subterranean climbing wall? Nobody is sure just yet, but the intention is serious. If the crowds who flock to the occasional openings of Aldwych ghost station are anything to go by, any form of access should prove popular with the public.
The Leslie Green-designed station was decidedly unpopular first-time round. It opened in 1907, but lack of footfall prompted its closure just 25 years later. With the Second World War looming, Down Street was converted into a subterranean command base, used on occasion by Winston Churchill, who dubbed it 'The Barn'.
Tokens of its wartime use are still present. Wall signs point to the Committee Room. A 1930s lift rises through the main staircase. Most tellingly of all, the platform level contains partitioned office space for the administration staff, while the mid-level still harbours bunk rooms and toilet facilities.
It'd take a lot of work, but there is considerable potential to convert the space for public use. The idea is to trial things with Down Street then use the experience to expand access to the dozens of other properties in TfL's portfolio. Indeed, a tender process has just been launched, inviting companies to submit innovative ideas to transform the station into a commercially viable business.
Graeme Craig, TfL’s Director of Commercial Development, said: “The combination of space, history, and location, makes this a unique opportunity. We are looking for a partner with the imagination to see the potential here and the capability to deliver it.”
For now, the station remains under lock-and-key, its grimy corridors seen only by the occasional contractor and lucky journalist.
Click through our gallery above for a photographic tour of the subterranean levels. We'll have a video ready in the next few days.
See also: A tour of Brompton Road ghost station (2011)