October 2010: Notting Hill Gate Tube posters

These photographs came about as a result of some modernisation work at Notting Hill Gate tube station earlier this year. Contractors took a sign off the wall on the Central Line platform and discovered a series of passageways.

We know about most of the unused spaces, even if they’re totally inaccessible, which is why this one is an oddity. The staircase inside descended into a wall of concrete and in the passageway was a series of posters that would have been on the walls when this area was closed off in March or April 1959.

We’ve got some of the posters in the company collection – they date from 1956–1959 and Daphne Padden’s work is down there, for example – but it was fascinating to actually see them in situ, in a passageway that was built in 1900.

It would have been easy to be secretive about our discovery, but we know there’s a great interest and passion in the London Underground brand and, in some respects, our heritage is public. So I sent Ian Bell, the company photographer, along and decided to do a little experiment; I put ten lo-res images up on my Flickr page. These pictures garnered nearly half a million hits.

We forget that poster advertising works because it either catches our eye, or is just there when we’re standing on the platform waiting for the train. In that sense, it’s truly ephemeral. These posters were never designed to stay around that long and purely by circumstance have survived an additional 50 years and received another brief outing. At other stations we’ve had old posters on show but people have tried to remove them. So we made the decision to reseal this little tomb.

I think that sealing the space back up again rather appealed to my sense of preserving our past: it’s now become a snapshot of our history.

Mike Ashworth
Design and heritage manager
London Underground


Mike Ashworth is Design and Heritage Manager for London Underground. His job involves preserving the many historic buildings within the transport network and overseeing all aspects of the company’s customer-facing design.

The images included here were taken by LU photographer, Ian Bell, and feature posters dating from 1956 to 1959, as discovered during recent building work at Notting Hill Gate tube station. After the images were taken, the passageway was resealed.

Ashworth’s Flickr set, Hidden Posters of Notting Hill Gate Tube Station, 2010 is viewable here.


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