1 June 2023

Hidden London tours of Kingsway Tram Tunnel

Two weeks ago I finally visited the disused tram tunnel underneath Holborn Kingsway, a subterranean passage that was built for public transport just below street level, linking North and South London via Bloomsbury and The Embankment. 

We met our guides at the top of the one in ten access slope at the junction of Southampton Row and Theobald's Road here. Note the impressive railings and lamp standards that protect the entrance. I'm simply going to show you some of my photos. 

The base of the central lamp directly above the tunnel entrance bears the cartouche LCC, London County Council 
Looking down at the rails. In some places you can see clear to the void below and we were advised not to let anything drop down there, because they wouldn't be able to get it back. Some old posters which I think were real as there are also hints of posters and signage installed more recently being as this tunnel has often been used as filming location.

My two photos show the steps leading up to the exit that was almost opposite Holborn tube station. The archive image is the other exit near Bush House and shows that in order to get to the tram platforms you had to play with the traffic at ground level

Ooh look, more wood blocks! And a lovely pattern of rails, and a modern Fire Exit sign, though I'm sure not quite as attractive as the ones of 100 years ago would have been. 

The large panels within the pic on the left are metal and these would have been used for advertising posters. They are still in amazingly good condition. I like abstract patterns made by colourful wires on sooty walls. 

There might be trams in Croydon, and I am sure that I heard about a decade ago, a proposal for trams to be reintroduced to Oxford Street etc, but, for many reasons, there are no plans to bring them back to this old subway. Today, most of this underground space is used by Camden Council to store redundant street furniture.

Rad blocks, barriers, lamp standards, and all sorts being stored here. 

I spotted some attractively-arranged storage in some of the recesses along the access slope. They look like little art installations. Surely this isn't an accident?! I think the curators probably use those two chairs and were off having a tea break when we were there!  

The southern section under Aldwych is still a functioning underpass, used by small vehicles rather than public transport, and headed northwards only. Access is from Lancaster Place at the northern end of Waterloo Bridge. Many years ago, when I had my little Fiat Panda, I used to love whizzing through there like I was in the Monaco Grand Prix, down the slope, swing to the right, swing to the left, emerging into Kingsway triumphant just before Portugal Street. And then sitting in traffic (of which I was part!). 

Pat and Kat were our guides on the day and their enthusiasm shone through. It's a really good tour, albeit a bit expensive, but you're only going to do it once. Find out lots more by experiencing the tour yourself through London Transport Museum's website here, where you'll also find archive images and more information.

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Thanks, Jane