Review of 'Hidden London: Piccadilly Circus: The Heart of London'

https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/hidden-london/piccadilly-circus

I have been a fan of the London Underground since even before I had ever used it myself. It's amazing network of efficient trains transport you quick and easily to anywhere in the city with their iconic colours and, indeed, stations. I have attended the London Transport Museum's regular Acton Depot Open Day events to see some of the artefacts of the underground but I have always balked at the cost of their frequently organized tours of disused tube stations or behind-the-scenes tours of current stations. Recently I finally closed my eyes and pressed the “Buy” button for a tour of non-public areas of the famous Piccadilly Circus…and I am very glad I did. When tickets go on sale you have to act quickly as they sell out in minutes so I was also very lucky.

Our tour was to start at 10:00 am on a Friday but we were advised to arrive early at the bottom of the stairs at “Exit 4” (near the Trocadero building). Of course, we were early and it turned out to be a good time for a tour as the morning rush was just finishing and it was easy to hear our two guides (there was also a safety officer trailing behind to make sure we didn't lose anyone). The tour group had about 14 people in it, all wearing masks as per current London Underground policy.

On arrival we had our names checked off on a list and given a tour wristband. A short introduction to the tour and the station followed before we were then taken to the top of the emergency staircase in the concourse.

Entering the Emergency Staircase

Emergency Staircase

The gate opened for us, we made our way down to the Piccadilly Line platform. At the end of the platform was another gate which was opened for us and we grouped on the other side in a dark, black painted, tunnel for more information about where we were.

Heading Into the Gloom

At each point there was generally a poster (or two) illustrating some aspect of what it was we were seeing which the guide would pick up on and expand, drawing our attention to specific things of note.

Disused Tunnel

The tunnels shown to us are those that comprised the original access to the lifts used before the renovation to the station completed in 1928. These were also used during World War 2 as bomb shelters, much to the initial dismay of London Transport (though they eventually realized they would have to allow people to do this and managed it quite effectively).

Access Shaft

Taking Picture of Access Shaft

The tour showed us the access tunnels in which the lifts were housed as well as where museums stored their art during the war. The tunnels are now used for storage by the network with the dirty walls lined with the original tile colours for the station.

"To the Trains" Sign

The tour guides were very good and explained things very well during the 75 minute tour, making a number of stops and allowing us to explore the area in our own time. Though it was only a tour of a few of the areas hidden in the station it really had a massive sense of history with what happened here more interesting than the reason for their initial creation. Much of the information given you could find online or in books but to actually be stepping in the spaces, seeing what they are really like it quite amazing. You really feel in touch with something that most today will never experience.

Looking Out to the Public

More Stuff

Though expensive, a great way for interested people to see things that normally we would never see. Wonderful.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2021-11-12



Piccadilly Circus Station

Location: London (England)

Address: Piccadilly Circus, London W1J 9HP ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Piccadilly Circus

Telephone: +44 (0) 343 222 1234

URL: https://tfl.gov.uk/tube/stop/940GZZLUPCC/piccadilly-circus-underground-station

The iconic tube station in London located under Piccadilly Circus where you can catch either Bakerloo or Piccadilly line tube trains. It's circular station concourse with tunnels tentacling out to allow access from four surface staircases (and three underground access points directly into buildings that are no longer in use).

Entrance

The concourse hosts is a memorial to Frank Pick, former CEO of London Transport who was responsible for much of the design of this station and the tube system in general including the famous tube typefaces and tube map design still in use today.

Frank Pick Memorial