Charing Cross Station has a rather complex history, so please bear with me! The Bakerloo line part of the station first opened on 10th March 1906, then called Trafalgar Square. The Northern Line platforms opened the following year, called Charing Cross, on the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway as it was then known. The CCHR was extended southwards to meet the District Line at Embankment, which was then also called Charing Cross! After a short spell as Charing Cross(Strand), to distinguish from Charing Cross(Embankment) on the District Line the Northern line platforms became known simply as Strand.
The whole complex was simplified in the 1970s with the coming of the Jubilee Line. Interchange was introduced between both Trafalgar Square and Strand stations, which were both helpfully renamed Charing Cross. Thankfully at this point, the District Line station was renamed Embankment, otherwise things would have been really confusing. If my explanation lost you at any point, this map from Wikipedia should help matters!
After all that, the Jubilee Line only called here for 20 years as the much delayed extension to the line ended up being re-routed away from the original proposals to head towards Fleet Street.
The underpasses that lead to the station are rather bleak. With the white and orange wall tiling and strip lighting, it all feels rather dated and in need of a revamp. If I were a tourist getting off here, it wouldn’t give me a great first impression. That said, I’m sure seeing Trafalgar Square soon makes up for that! The green walls in the ticket hall aren’t much better either.
Things do improve down at the platform levels. When the station was reconfigured in 1979 to mark the (brief!) arrival of the Jubilee Line, a mural, by David Gentleman, was commissioned for the Northern Line platforms detailing the construction of the first ‘Charing Cross’, dedicated to Queen Eleanor at the end of the 13th Century. This added bit of life to the tired Underground network was so well received that the GLC embarked on a programme of further platform art enhancements in the early 1980s. This included the vivid Eduardo Paolozzi mosaics at Tottenham Court Road and the incredibly 80s lines at Embankment, both of which also remain in situ today.
The Pub: The Harp, 47 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HS
The Harp is perfectly suitated, just off Trafalgar Square. The pub’s website have made a handy video of how to get there from Charing Cross – I will defer to their good judgement on this one!
The Harp has a relatively small frontage, but chances all you’ll spot it given all the people likely to be outside enjoying a pint! It’s a pub with real pedigree, winning the 2010/11 National CAMRA pub of the year award, as well as countless Greater London CAMRA awards over the years.
As I am sure will be no surprise, they have a full and varied collection of ales – 10 different ales are always available on tap. On our visit this included Palmers Copper Ale, Blue Bee Nectar Pale and Red Dawn Mild. I am delighted to report one of their regular beers is Harvey’s Sussex Best, one of my favourite pints around. Sussex is further represented by Dark Star beers which are also regularly available. On the food front, they stick to what they know and only serve up their range of award winning sausages.
Above one end of the bar, there are I would guess at least 100 beermats, advertising various different brews. I would also assume that all have been able at one stage or another at The Harp. The downstairs bar is relatively narrow and cosy, in the way that good old fashioned London pubs tend to be. The front windows are stained glass incorporating a Harp on each of the main panels.The walls are adorned with a mixture old portraits and ornate mirrors. There is also the upstairs room which is said to have a quieter pace. Due to the popularity of the pub, finding a seat can be a real challenge!
The Harp is without question one of the top pubs in Central London. I hope that tourists are able to find it and sample the delights of a proper, traditional London pub!