Hidden London: Thoughtful Design And Fascinating Facts At London Transport Museum's Best Exhibition Yet

Hidden London, London Transport Museum ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 52 months ago

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Hidden London: Thoughtful Design And Fascinating Facts At London Transport Museum's Best Exhibition Yet Hidden London, London Transport Museum 5
Step inside for the secrets within Hidden London.

I stand in front of what looks like an abandoned tube station, complete with overgrown vegetation and safety barrier. The doors part, revealing London Transport Museum's Hidden London exhibition.

The museum has gone all out to create the grungy vibe of an abandoned Underground station, with open fuse boxes, discarded hard hats and a blacked-out ticket office. It's so well done, you'd be forgiven for think that the detritus is left over from the installation of this show, rather than a part of it.

The museum has gone all out on creating the grungy aesthetic of an abandoned station.

Facts about the abandoned stations that lie beneath our feet abound in this trivia-packed exhibition. Did you know the first tube station to close was Farringdon Street? It had to be re-sited in 1864, just under three years after it was opened, in an example of poor planning that makes even the Crossrail delay look passable.

The exhibition extends beyond transport, taking visitors on a journey through food being grown below the streets of Clapham and the roosting bats in the abandoned tunnels at Highgate — two uses of tunnels that avid Londonist readers will be familiar with, yet we still find fascinating to learn about.

Growing herbs is a practical use for abandoned tunnels.

Aldwych station's big-screen appearances are celebrated through film posters advertising the likes of V for Vendetta. Those looking for a hands-on experience can have a go at being a telephone operator in a mock-up of the exchange that was housed at the disused Down Street station.

The show is rounded out with a look at the use of tube stations during the Blitz, complete with a bunk bed, and cases of belongings, photographs of people playing board games, and the issuing of tickets to stop people sneaking in early to bag a good spot.

Make sure you don't disturb the bats.

Fascinating facts, artefacts, posters and photographs fill this exhibition but what really gives it the edge is the commitment to the abandoned station aesthetic — right down to the labels being held in place with industrial tape.

The use of speakers to imitate a train travelling pass on the other side of a wall is an excellent touch — it's remarkably realistic, and reminiscent of being in the Vaults in Waterloo, where genuine trains create an identical rumble. We love a well-designed exhibition, and this is London Transport Museum's best effort yet.  

Hidden London: the Exhibition opens at London Transport Museum on 11 October 2019 and runs until January 2021. There will be a series of Hidden London themed Friday lates, including one on the opening day of the exhibition and several running throughout 2020. Access to the exhibition is included with general museum admission — £18 for adults and free for children. Tickets to the lates are £15 for adults.

Last Updated 09 October 2019