Holborn is the closest station to the British Museum, so perhaps it is only right it has a lively history of its own. The station opened on the same day as the Great Northern, Brompton and Piccadilly Railway. On 30th November the following year, the line’s branch to Aldwych opened. When Holborn first opened, the Central London Railway(as it was then called) passed extremely close by with its British Museum Station, but no interchange was available.
Like other Zone 1 Piccadilly Line stops, the station was modernised in the early 1930s to replace the lifts with escalators. This was also the period at which the Central Line platforms were added, opening on 25th September 1933, the day after the British Museum Station had closed. The station was also renamed to Holborn(Kingsway) but this didn’t stand the test of time. The last tube map I can find with that name on dates from 1960.
The Aldwych branch, stuck out on a limb from the tube network, struggled for passengers for many years. After many service reductions, finally shut in October 1994 after the cost of buying a replacement lift was declared prohibilitvely expensive. The now disused third platform at Holborn is often utilised for the purposes of TV/Movie filming.
Another slice of transport history adjacent to the station comes in the entrance to the disused Kingsway Tramway Tunnel. There are plenty of good articles about it online, including two from the excellent blog London Reconnections, one from 2009 and another from 2012. I was lucky enough to go inside the tunnel when it was being used for an art exhibition in late 2009. While the art wasn’t really my scene, the tunnel itself was fascinating.
At street level, there are station buildings both from the original opening in 1906(Leslie Green’s), as well as those enhanced in the Charles Holden style during the 1930s modernisation. The platforms and areas around the escalators are decorated with images of Egyptian Mummies and other artifacts likely to be found at the British Museum. I’ve always found them rather quaint, but they are no doubt helpful in reassuring tourists they’ve got the right station!
The Pub: Holborn Whippet, 25-29 Sicilian Avenue, WC1A 2QH
The pub, Holborn Whippet is found just north of the station, based on the charmingly named ‘Sicilian Avenue’, which branches off from the western side of Southampton Row.
The Whippet has a stripped down vibe to it with white walls, plain wooden seating and tables. To me it feels a bit like a bar you might find somewhere on the continent. I really like how you can find a ledge to perch your drink on and look out onto the world outside, futher adding to the continental vibe.
The beer selection here is very impressive, with up to 17 different beers available on tap at any one time which are in turn rotated on a regular basis. On on our visit, ales available included Sutra IPA from the Instant Karma Brewery and the equally wonderfully named Scarlet Macaw. I went for the Macaw, which turned out to be a very pleasant amber ale with a mildly fruity twist. On the food front, they seem to tap into the perfect foods to go with beer(well in my opinion anyway) including burgers, pizzas and currywurst. What more could you want?! There are a range of sandwiches and salads for those who prefer lighter bites.
Whenever I’ve passed it or dropped in, The Whippet has always been really busy with larges crowds both within the pub and also in its outside terrace area within the corinthian columns of Sicilian Avenue. The Holborn Whippet is unquestionably a great pub, it’s always such a pleasure to find somewhere so unique and vibrant in Zone 1. Definitely check it out!