Brompton RoadFormer underground railway station (Piccadilly Line)
By Dr James Fox
The Brompton Road underground station closed on 29th July 1934, because the nearby Knightsbridge station (which had been rebuilt to allow a direct connection to Harrods) was so near.
It was taken over and converted into the Royal Artillery's Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) for central London. (The exact date is uncertain: it could have been a WWII AAOR or a 1950s one.)
To facilitate the use of the station, two of the four lift/access shafts were floored over at intervals of about 15 feet, and a staircase inserted, thus providing all the necessary office and room space in these two shafts. Of the other two shafts, one was retained for ventilation and the other for a full staircase from the surface to the lowest level.
At the bottom of the two office shafts, at the lowest level, one was used as the operations room. This is circular and although fairly cramped it retains the shell of a typical AAOR ops room in miniature. The other was used for the ventilation blowers.
The access passageways at the lowest level are used for electrical switchgear and gas filtration. Staircases then go down to the platform tunnels, which are walled off from the train lines. The eastbound platform was used as the teleprinter and communications station, and the westbound one was used for a rest area, staff space and a briefing cinema in which the screen can still be found. Some of the original tiling is still in place on the walls.
The whole area is very dusty (mostly asbestos dust from the train brake linings). It is quite well preserved, having never been used since 1955 when the AAOR programme became defunct. The below-ground section is owned by London Underground, while the surface building is owned by the Ministry of Defence and used by the University Air Squadron.
Neither owner allows any access to the other's section, and visits are never allowed on grounds of safety and security. It is not possible to access the site from the surface. An attempt was made to enter the site about five years ago and this resulted in the dead body of the `visitor' being found a month later at the bottom of the 110 ft. ventilation shaft, which he had apparently fallen through from the roof above.
The photographs shown are quite unique and believed to be first taken since the 1950s. The author and Mr John Harris were given special access by LUL and the MoD. In some places original notices about the AAOR can still be found on the walls signed by the commanding officer of the day.
Out of interest, Down Street station (on the same line) was Churchill's favourite WWII war room. This can be visited on special trips arranged by London Underground about twice a year. Sir Winston was not too keen on the Cabinet War Rooms or Paddock which, although purpose built at Dollis Hill, was only used once and is now derelict.
(Please click on any of the photos below for a larger version.)
All photographs © 1998 Dr James Fox
Last updated 22nd April 1999
© 1999 Subterranea Britannica