What Did Hitler Ever Do For Us?



Ah, the Northern Line, running through London like the digestive-tract of a prawn, unreliable and overcrowded, with stations that still use creaking lifts to escape from platforms. The Northern Line, which is in two entirely separate sections just to mess with our heads, and where you have to go North to go South even though Euston is actually East of King’s Cross interchange. If locals can’t figure it out, tourists must be stuffed when they try to get from City to Charing Cross.

The Northern Line, with its missing stations (anyone remember Trafalgar Square being open? I do) and stations that simply don’t exist like British Museum. At the moment, just to add to the confusion, Embankment is shut on one side so trains whizz through it, so that you look up from your book and find you’re on the wrong side of the river.

The Northern Line, with its endless pointless announcements and myriad annoyances does pass over some oddities, including underground bomb shelters at Clapham North into which 12,000 people crammed during air raids. Well, now they’ve finally found a new use.

Two entrepreneurs have set up a 2.5 acre crop farm in one to grow zero carbon food in a commercial urban farm twelve stories below London. The first test garden, which has been up and running for a few months as part of a commercial project called Growing Underground, is backed by chef Michel Roux Jr.

The farm consists of hemp beds in which salads and herbs are being grown hydroponically, so nutrient-rich water floods once a day and is drained away, with no soil involved in the process. Above each bed are strips of special low energy LED lights. The advantage of being underground is it’s insulated, so the temperature can be kept stable and the rent is cheap.

So it may now be that London’s vegetables will be born out of the need to protect the populace from bombs. Well done, chaps!

14 comments on “What Did Hitler Ever Do For Us?”

  1. Jo W says:

    Which is the wrong side of the river, Admin?

  2. Alan Morgan says:

    London below London is ever of endless fascination. There are deep shelters dotted along the Northern Line of course, at the many Claphams, Goodge Street, Stocckwell and Belsize Park from memory. You can spot them by the rotunda entrances – round, blocky fortresses with the tall chimney vents atop. Clapham South was used as a somewhere to temporarily house those that arrived on the Windrush in the latter 40s.

    There’s a shelter on the Central Line too, Chancery Lane that became the Kingsway Exchange, featured for much of James Herbert’s third rats novel. It was for sale last I heard and there are a lot of decent photos to be found of it, well preserved and rather beige.

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    “Your parents arrived on the Windrush, didn’t they?”
    “So they always maintained.”

    What was the Windrush?

  4. admin says:

    The Windrush brought the first immigrants from Jamaica to Britain.

    The wrong side of the river is the side that isn’t the side you thought you were getting out on if you wanted to get off at Embankment, although the wrong side is the right side, if you see what I mean.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Carbon free food? Carbon is the basis of all life forms on earth, isn’t it?
    It sounds like a great idea and probably better than the marijuana farm at the bottom of an unused mine in Manitoba (?)
    When we were using the Underground I kept watching for signs of unused stations or branch lines but either we were on the wrong lines or I was looking for the wrong thing.

  6. snowy says:

    The Empire Windrush, has a similar place in the history of Brixton as The Mayflower does for some Americans.

    The closed stations are well hidden, they are underground after all, but mostly to stop people wandering about and getting lost/into trouble. I’ll stick a link up about Clapham South, [about 3 pages worth], but from the home page it’s possible to browse all the other ‘lost’ stations.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    We’re getting a special the end of the month – London Underground – including the buried Fleet and much more! Looking forward to that.

  8. Jo W says:

    Thanks Admin—- Wot?

  9. Matt says:

    It’s so educational here, you learn a new fact nearly every day. Brill!

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Snowy – interesting site as always. Nice bit about the Windrush, too, as well as the Festival of Britain. I guess I shouldn’t have expected to catch a glimpse of closed stations just by watching out the window.

  11. jan says:

    Wow thats weird i sent u some stuff ( in the post proper sending) about this very subject and (just to proved HOW POSH I AM) all this stuff is in this weeks Waitrose paper. It does seem to have caught peoples imagination and Helen nearly all the techniques used for this indoor garden/farm have been pinched from the illegal cannabis growing farms. Theres some clever villains about.

    The history of the Northern line shelters predates Hitler Mr Chris the Northern line its weird set up and succession of Bunkers is actually a relic of thinking from post WW1 believe it or not. I actually did have some plans of the underground shelter which is attached to Goodge street underground (northern line) We owe the planning of the Victoria line to Hitler WW2 they actually started to plan the Vic line not long after the blitz. None of this line runs above ground and don’t be fooled into thinking that was anything to do with price of property. The Victoria line depending on which map u believe runs underneath the Vic Monument o/s Buck house and at one time many thought it was the royal familys way out of the UK. It doesn’t seem to stop at Brixton – no buffers see?
    All this stuff features in Beneath the city streets and that book u can’t find “Sunrise” by Peter Way.

  12. Vivienne says:

    I remember Trafalgar Square – and that Embankment was Charing Cross. Once, I was trying to get to the BFI and had suffered a series of Clockwork type mishaps. Finally arriving on the Bakerloo platform at Embankment, asked a station employee (they used to actually be on the plantforms sometimes) where was the best place to stand to make a quick exit from Waterloo. He said ‘I don’t know – I’ve never been that far’.

  13. jan says:

    Here British Museum station does exist Chris if you leave the British museum at the front entrance and walk down toward Soho walking toward Centrepoint on the left before you get to the old Nationwide building society hq is a building covered by distinctive red shiny tilework – thats the old station. If you are on the Central line on some journeys you actually travel through British museum station not all journeys some just travelling east i think into the CIty.

    Re the Windrush journeymakers when the West Indians got into London they found mysteriously no-one would rent them rooms or flats. After extensive government recruitment this left a large number of homeless people due to start work in hospitals on LT and other essential jobs to keep London’s infrastructure going. Now when the Brits had recruited lots of Irish lasses from southern island to work as clippies on LT they had ended up in leftover accomodation from the war days a big block of flats at the back of Bakers st station no such luck for the W. indians the best that could be done for them was the left over troop accomodation in the deep shelter down near Brixton. After a few months the lads got fed up living underground and were willing to pay good money to live above ground like everyone else therefore Brixton became the closest spot with lots of landlords willing to take a punt on the incomers. This is why Brixton is modern Brixton with such a multi ethnic mix

  14. jan says:

    I know the Northern Line appears to make very little sense logistically but it shares the distinction with the Victoria line of the LT networks contribution to London’s civil defence. If you read “Beneath the city streets” the bloke spells it out fairly basically how the system would have worked in time of war and remember the government were not at all impressed when the populace took to sheltering in the underground system overnight in WW2 this only went on because of sheer weight of numbers of people sheltering down there and the realisation that there would be considerable civil unrest if the locals could not shelter in the underground station platforms. This wasn’t because of the often quoted trogolitic mentality which Churchill allegedly feared but the interference the population could have had made with secret government installations.. i know i bang on about this every now and again but the cluster of secret hqs in North West London the Cricklewood navy underground war room (Hurrah for Cricklewood!) and the Post office research centre in Neasden and further up toward Wembley the requisition of both Wembley Hight School and an old country house out in Sudbury were all going to be bases for the relocated government if Westminster had been bombed out of existence. In addition to the bases at Wembley i think there was something beneath the old GEC Place on North Wembley Industrial estate and station Z the RAF secret HQ beneath the massive Kodak buildings in Harrow near Harrow and Wealdstone station. RIght up until the 1990s there were lots of aerials at this location and police communications, forces communications and others ran from here. North west london was the governments first go at serious relocation in times of trouble of course with the nuclear threat bases moved futher west Warminster and its surrounding areas suitable for tunnelling and the site of much mining was considered suitable government from the 1960s onward.

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