This is a sponsored article on behalf of London Transport Museum.
London is home to the oldest subterranean railway in the world. And throughout its 156 year history, the London Underground has done a lot more than ferrying tourists and commuters from A to B — especially during times of conflict.
Now, a new exhibition at London Transport Museum reveals the monumental role played by this sprawling labyrinth beneath the capital's streets during the second world war.
Hidden London: the Exhibition brings London's wartime underbelly to life by recreating 'forgotten' parts of the tube network. From an underground aircraft factory on the Central Line, to the lavish subterranean HQ that hosted Winston Churchill, this is your chance to discover how the London Underground's secret spaces protected Londoners, helped secure the future of Britain, and continue to contribute to the capital in the present day.
The exhibition builds on London Transport Museum's wildly popular Hidden London tours, which take guests to visit disused stations and spaces, including Down Street, Piccadilly Circus, Euston and Clapham South. Even if you've already been on one, the exhibition's rare archival photos, objects, secret diagrams, and other curiosities on display — some for the first time ever — make it a must-see, especially for transport aficionados and history buffs.
Discover how Winston Churchill took shelter during the height of the Blitz as you explore a replica of the secret dining room within the Railway Executive Committee's (REC) bomb-proof HQ. Hidden in the depths of the disused Down Street Station, here Churchill would feast on the finest caviar, swill the best brandy and champagne, and puff on his trademark cigars, all courtesy of the railway hotels (sadly, there are no free samples).
Inside London Transport Museum's recreation, you can even have a go at being a Wartime Telephone Exchange Operator. Race against the clock to connect incoming calls to different governmental departments — the nation's future could depend on it!
It wasn't just Britain's wartime leader and the REC who made use of the London Underground during the second world war, either. Not only did stations serve as air-raid shelters, but a 2.5 mile chunk of the Central line housed the Plessey aircraft factory. It was in this vast stretch of tunnel that 2,000 members of staff (mostly women) would produce equipment to aid the war effort.
Find out what life was like for these Londoners via an array of archival exhibits, including vintage advertisements and graph that showed how infectious disease could spread underground.
The end of the war didn't mean that these secret spaces were entirely forgotten, as Hidden London: the Exhibition makes clear. Today, parts of the Underground are used for everything from film sets to salad-growing facilities.
Peruse vintage film posters, including one from V for Vendetta, which was partially filmed in the abandoned Aldwych station. You can even explore a replica of this now-defunct Piccadilly line station's ticketing hall, complete with its original 1930s ticket booth and famous Leslie Green tiles.
Hidden London: the Exhibition at London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB, 11 October 2019-January 2021. Entry to the exhibition is included in the museum admission which gets you unlimited daytime entry for an entire year.