Brompton Road underground station was opened in December 1906 as part of the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. The station was one of a number on what was to become the Piccadilly Line that was designed by the architect Leslie Green. The station was located relatively close to Brompton Oratory and the Victoria and Albert Museum but, despite this, its closeness to both Knightsbridge and South Kensington tube stations meant that it was never busy. Only alternate trains used to stop at the station and the phrase ‘Passing Brompton Road’ became a catch-phrase that was used as the title of a 1928 satirical play. The station was closed temporarily during the National Strike of 1926, but closed permanently on 30 July 1934, when a new entrance, served by escalators, was opened to Knightsbridge Station – much closer to Harrods. ​

In the evening of Wednesday 31 March, a number of Paviors attended a Zoom-based talk and virtual tour of the closed station that was organized by the London Transport Museum as part of their ‘Hidden London’ series of tours. Paviors had the benefit of experienced and knowledgeable tour guides, Pat Dennis and Emily Turner, who guided them through the history of the station and its current use with a series of slides and videos.

During the Second World War, the station was sold to the War Department and was converted for use as an operations centre for controlling anti-aircraft guns for the 26th (London) Anti-Aircraft Brigade. The station platforms were removed and brick walls built alongside the tracks so that trains could still pass the station at normal line-speed. One of the station’s two lift-shafts was converted to provide four operations rooms, one on top of the other, that were accessed from the station’s spiral staircase. The top room was used for command-control, the one below as a telephone exchange, and the two lower rooms were used for controlling gunnery operations in north and south London, respectively. A further room at platform level provided a reserve. Ammunition was also stored at the station. Ventilation was a key issue for the underground operations and this was controlled by large fans and air filters. Doors to operations rooms were designed to resist possible gas-attack and were steel-plated and fitted with special seals.

Many of the original war-time features are still in place, although the station is now used as a storage site for engineering equipment for the Piccadilly Line. Paviors were able to enjoy seeing contemporary photographs of the site during war-time, but also a series of video tours around the various tunnels, staircases and rooms, accompanied by a fascinating commentary by tour-guides Pat and Emily.

The main station buildings on Brompton Road were demolished in 1972 as part of a road-widening scheme. In 2014, the site at ground-level was sold to a Ukrainian business man, Dmytro Firtash, who was expected to develop the site for residential use. However, the site is currently in limbo while Mr Firtash is reportedly in Vienna fighting an extradition order from the United States on alleged bribery and corruption charges.

The tour provided a really interesting evening’s entertainment, and thanks are due to Pavior Jay Moorhouse for arranging the event. Particular thanks are also due to the very professional tour guides, Pat and Emily, for their fascinating commentary.