10th January 1863. Down the Tube.

The diarist Sir William Hardman writing in 1863 commented that he had ‘made his first trip down the ‘Drain’, taking a 6d first class ticket, and experiencing no disagreeable odour, that the carriages held ten and one could stand erect with a hat on’.


Metropolitan Line under construction.

The last steam train ran on the underground in 1961 which was 98 years after the first section of the the Metropolitan Railway, designed by John Fowler, was opened Today for the public in 1863.(1)

The line ran from Bishop’s Road (Paddington) to Farringdon Street, City then on to the new Smithfield Market.

Early lines were built on the ‘cut and cover principle’ and only later did the ‘Tube’ require tunnelling through the sticky London clay.(2)



Chancellor of the Exchequer William Gladstone ready to inspect the new line as a director of the Metropolitan Railway Company.

The Underground developed owing to the ban on mainline services into Central London.  The London and Birmingham Railway considered a terminal on the Thames Wharf where the Savoy Hotel now stands, but after protests they settled for Euston where passengers transferred to the Tube.

Initial objections to the ‘Tube’ came from property owners worried about impact on buildings so routes followed street lines.


South Wimbledon 1928 by Holden.

The 20thc saw advertising posters when the original operating companies decided to promote themselves as ‘The Underground’, suggesting for example a trip to Speakers’ Corner, to see The Changing of the Guard and Petticoat Lane. Sporting venues favoured included the Oval and Wimbledon.


The Underground inspired distinctive graphic design, mainly through the efforts of Frank Pick to improve the poor image of the Underground.(3)

He employed Eric Gill to adapt a clear legible typeface and introduced the standard 1930s Art Deco house style by Charles Holden for stations.

The first maps to show all the underground lines, as opposed to those of individual companies, was issued free in 1908 and the 1927 map of F.H. Stingemore, with its curved lines, recorded suburban expansion.

The schematic map we know today, based on straight lines, was devised by Harry Beck an employee of London Underground and published in 1933.

This made sense of a tangled knot of lines stretching from Edgware in the north to Morden in the south and incorporated the new Arsenal Station, formerly Gillespie Road, after the advocacy of the Arsenal manager, Herbert Chapman.

Down Street

Down Street Station facade..

There are forty-three abandoned underground stations and now used for various purposes, such as Down Street which was built too close to Hyde Park Corner Station. Its blood-red terracotta tiles are still visible off Piccadilly.

The wine cellar of the demolished Devonshire House nearby is now the Green-Park ticket office.


(1) Sir John Fowler (Bart) later chief designer of Forth Railway Bridge near Edinburgh.

(2) The City and South London was the first underground to use electricity running from the Bank under the Thames via Waterloo to Stockwell in 1890.

Early trains were provided by the Great Western which used a gauge of 7ft 0¼ inches, but with a third rail of standard gauge as needed.

(3) Pick as Chief Executive of London Transport was responsible for 1930s bus design.

NB:  The busiest London underground station in 2014 was Oxford Circus.

Ref: wikipedia.org/metropolitan_rail/Pic Image of line.

Ref: dailytelegraph/travel/history-of-tube-in-pictures/Pic of Gladstone.

Ref: cityam.com/Pic of Down Street.

Ref: standard.co.uk/googleimages/Pic of footballers.

Ref: openbuildings.com/wimbledon-station/Pic


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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