19 June 2024

From disused to iconic – the story of Shoreditch Underground station.

This is the story of an unloved, abandoned London Underground station, which became the figurehead of East End graffiti art.

Shoreditch station first opened in 1869 as part of the East London Railway. It sadly ended 16 years later in 1885. The station, however, was a fighter and achieved status once more as part of the Metropolitan Railway in 1913. Goods were transported from Liverpool Street through Shoreditch until 1966.

Then came the reign of the illustrious East London Line, which allowed trains to run through Shoreditch to Whitechapel, Shadwell and Wapping. Later, Shoreditch station refused to surrender, keeping its lonely single platform alongside a single track that ran next to the disused Bishopsgate goods yard. It was proudly one of only a handful of single platform-single track stations on the network.

Unfortunately, Shoreditch station was replaced by the monstrous, all-conquering tangerine London Overground.

Thence decay?

Not on your nelly! Remarkably, in 2011, TfL put it up for sale. The advert stated that ‘the property comprises a ticket office, a lobby area, store rooms, plant rooms and a WC. It’s within a popular residential area with its many trendy bars and restaurants. Brick Lane is within easy walking distance and Old Spitalfields Market is close by.’

The ad must have done the trick. The derelict station was transformed and flourished as a cutting-edge art gallery then evolved to become a pop-up cinema in 2014. And not just any pop-up cinema. This was a six-person hot-tub multiplex where guests delighted themselves amongst champagne and bubbles whilst watching art-house flicks.

Quite a reinvention for the humble station on Pedley Street. Despite all its efforts to survive and to thrive, it was apparently slated for demolition…. until the graffiti artists made it the revered object of their affections. They first covered up its past pain and suffering with a defiant base layer of jet-black paint. On top of this, they showered their adored canvas with the most exquisite graffiti art Shoreditch had ever known. Shoreditch station is now an other-worldly being resplendent in her attire, and adorned with hieroglyphic logos, silhouette figures, and enigmatic portraits. Labyrinthine, multi-dimensional patterns in violet and crimson wave in and out of her flickering neon windows.

Not bad for a lowly tube station destined for the scrapheap!

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