Tube stations: then and now

Travel back in time with our interactive gallery and see what the London Underground looked like back in the day

The London Underground network is the oldest urban subway system in the world. Naturally, then, it's had a few different looks over the years. And while some stations (and the high streets they sit on) have morphed beyond all recognition, some are just as reassuringly handsome as they were over 100 years ago.

Use the slider handle on the images below to flick between past and present. Got an old photo of London we should re-shoot for our next gallery? Tweet at @TimeOutLondon.

Many thanks to London Transport Museum for supplying the majority of the images below.

Hampstead, 1907


Now, we know Hampsteadites enjoy a gentler pace of life, but this is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Since its grand opening on June 22 1907, the Northern line station, which features the distinctive red tile stylings of architect Leslie Green (and features the deepest tunnels on the entire network, fact fans) has barely changed a bit. 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

Earl's Court, 1880


Earl's Court got its place on the London transport network on April 12 1869, when it joined the Metropolitan District Railway (now the District line). Fast forward 133 years and it's barely recognisable, those roomy platforms slimmed down to make room for Piccadilly line trains and thousands of commuters (disappointingly few of whom still wear top hats). 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

Holborn, 1959


Holborn tube station opened as Holborn (Kingsway) back in 1906, at which time you could hop on a train to the now defunct Aldwych station. During World War II, the tunnels to Aldwych (as well as the station itself) were used as an air-raid shelter, before the Aldwych branch closed for good in 1994. The remaining platform is now used to test new signage and advertising systems. 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

Old Street, 1970


Decades before the tech firms and brand agency folk moved in, Old Street station looked a little bit like this. While footfall was undoubtedly lower, you can bet your life the challenge of picking the right exit was just as baffling. 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

South Kensington, 1957


While a few modern flourishes have crept in, South Kensington is one of few tube stations proudly hanging on to its design heritage. Whether the hoards of tourists trudging along to the nearby museums appreciate or not is another question. 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

Bank, 1920


Now home to a charmless chain pub and a coffee shop, the original station buildings of Bank station were some of the most impressive on the network when they opened back in 1884. 'Before' image: Press Association

Oxford Circus, 1969


While these days it's the fourth busiest station on the London Underground network, Oxford Circus has always been a bit of a sardine tin. Originally opened in 1906, the station underwent extensive reconstruction just six years later, when operators of the Baker Street and Waterloo Railways that served the station conceded it simply couldn't cope with the load. Even that only eased the crush for a bit – a second expansion took place in 1923. 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

Oxford Circus, 1962


'Before' image © London Transport Museum

Covent Garden, 1966


Long before the Apple store turned Covent Garden into a gadget nerd's paradise, the West End piazza was better known for actual apples, along with pears, oranges, grapefruit and all manner of other fresh produce. Since the fruit and veg folk upped sticks and moved to Nine Elms in 1974, the area has become a hotspot for tourists, who can be seen shuttling along the Piccadilly line between Covent Garden and Leicester Square – the closest two adjacent stations on the entire tube network. 'Before' image: Rex Features

Whitechapel, 1896

You may have found yourself snuggled up to some creepy sorts during your morning commutes, but at least you'll never have to worry about Jack the Ripper's armpit crashing into your mush. After all, a man who spends his evenings digging through prostitutes' innards is unlikely to have particularly high standards of personal hygiene. 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

Brixton, 1980


If you ever need evidence that an area's on the up, just look at the local tube station. A whopping 24.8 million people passed through Brixton station last year, compared with just 20.8 million in 2009. At least half of which must surely be thanks to Honest Burgers, judging by the lunchtime queues. 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

Green Park, 1970


Opened as 'Dover Street' in 1906, Green Park has steadily expanded and grown to become one of the most useful interchanges on the London Underground. Originally served only by the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (now the Piccadilly line), the station became part of the Victoria line in 1969, and the Jubilee line ten years later. 'Before' image © London Transport Museum

More then and now galleries

Covent Garden: then and now

It wasn't always fashion flagships and gawping tourists, y'know. In fact, travel back as little as 40 years and the West End area now known for its shops, museums and theatres becomes all but unrecognisable…


Soho: then and now

The times, they are a-changin', and nowhere is it more apparent than in the West End's lively grid of food, booze and vice

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Darren G

Nice article, but lots of little inaccuracies.  Hampstead station, although physically unchanged, has had it's entrances and exits moved around.  Earl's Court, as mentioned before, the platforms haven't been narrowed, the space is just taken up with more platform furniture and kiosks.  Plus the Piccadilly line runs on it's own tube platforms deep below.  The Old Street pics only show the subway entrances built in the late 1960s, not the real station entrance, a Leslie Green designed building, which is no longer used, but still stands.  Likewise Green Park, the original, main entrance is across the road, plonked into the building front.  Bank station, the modern pic, shows that the before entrance has been removed completely (where the clock is), a subway entrance replaced it just out of shot to the left of that pic.  Oxford Circus went through a third and major rebuild in the 1960s, for the Victoria Line, which involved digging out Oxford Circus itself, so the present main ticket hall could be built just under it.  Again, both before and after pics show the 1960s subway entrances put in with that rebuild.  The 1962 pic should state that that entrance is now exit only.


Great article! Just have to mention though that none of the platforms in the Earl's Court photo are used by the Piccadilly line, all four are District line territory. The Pic is still in tunnel at this point :)

Hywel Williams

The most poignant is at Holborn, the J Lyons & Co tea house which were London's Costa/Starbucks of their time, then a flourishing expanding network of tea shops... the last of which closed in 1981. What's there now? Ironically a Costa Coffee shop. Incidentally, despite their main business being tea and cakes, J Lyons & Co. were surprisingly pioneers in the computer industry. They invented the world's first business computer (called LEO - Lyons Electronic Office) to maintain their expanding network of tea shops in 1951 beating the likes of IBM. They even sold a number to other companies.

Rima K

@Hywel Williams very intresting indeed, thanks for sharing. How do you know abot J Lyons, is there somewhere I can find more info about them ?

Stefany R

@Hywel Williams I grew up with those everywhere.  Beautiful lettering that I took for granted  It IS very poignant to see the old photos, particularly when one sees the hideous modern facades that have replaced some of the old ones.


they looked better before they mucked them about change is not always good with change we loose our identity and our past


Aldwych is also used today by film crews who need underground shots. TFL could actually open that as a museum and kit it out like it was the day it was opened


I love old photos of buildings especially from the 1960's as that's how I remember places in my mind - not in Black and White though!


I would have thought the TimeOut researchers were a little more thorough - Earl's Court will never see a Hammersmith & City or Circle line train!


Confused by the reviews as not only are they side by side, but you can move the slider to show more or less of each. This is brilliant for comparing!


LOVED the old pics, particularly Hampstead, my old home town


Agreed with Tony. It's really hard to see how much differently they look today when you're looking at separate spots. A side-by-side would be far better. @Jonny: I'm guessing they chose that reference because of the year of the original photo, as well, not just the location. The Ripper murders began just two years after that photo was taken.


This is the sort of stuff I love. but you can't really see the then and now if you don't see comparing shots. It's cleverness that detracts from the interesting subject matter.


I hoped that Time Out would know there's more to Whitechapel than Jack The Ripper. That was how long ago, about 110 years? I understand it from tourists but they barely know London. Nice photos though.