Happy Birthday Tube!
150 today, whereas my youngest is 6 on the same day. Coincidence? Yes.
Nonetheless and on this happy day a number of facts about the tube that may have escaped your attention. I love this sort of thing. It’s difficult to be further from London than where I am and still remain on this side of the border. But if my feet are stuck in Cumbria, and if my heart remains in Salisbury, then my soul is and always will be in Lambeth.
Half a million mice can be found on the UnderGround. They counted them with tiny pencils. The mice serve a useful function for the mosquitoes upon which they feed, the mossies now an entirely unique species.
The rotundas (fortifications) for the old deep level shelters can still be seen about the Claphams, and especially Belsize Park. South Clapham (which used to be ridiculously easy to break into for a wander about) was used for the arrivals on the Windrush whose nearest Labour Exchange was Brixton, and because of which is where many settled enriching the area ever since.
The longest escalator can be found at the Angel upon which late at night rather underfed fiends are said to rise from the abyss; on Saturday, going to Slimelight.
Aldgate East was built upon a plague pit. Just outside the city so people didn’t have too far to stagger.
In 1926 suicide pits were installed on the lines. Fifty poor souls chose this method to shuffle off each year, usually at 11am.
Smoking was still permitted until 1987 in the wake of the King’s Cross fire. I still remember not only being able to puff away on the platforms, but also in certain carriages. Mind you twenty minutes on the tube equates to smoking a fag anyway due to the quality of the air, so breathe deep.
Covent Garden is supposedly haunted by William Ferris late from 1897. Keeping up with the times he is said to now be a very shouty busker that chases tourists around the Punch & Judy.
The River Westbourne is carried over the platform at Sloane Square in an iron pipe, still there and readily spotted.
Brigadier Lethridge-Stewert was first encountered in the tube, back in 1968 and the Web of Fear. He was then but a colonel.
Hobb’s End, the fictional station used in Quatermas (and other) stories is actually part of the miniature line used by London UnderGround for staff training. I can’t discover if it actually features a pit. It ought to. Hobb’s End was also the name of the village where faced with Bok the Brigadier later ordered ‘chap with wings, five rounds rapid’.
Mind the gap!