A Platform for BBC Broadcasting House?
On the face of it, the building's close proximity to the railway, which runs alongside its length under Portland Place, would make such a platform a possibility. I have even spoken to people who even say they've seen the platform, yet there doesn't seem to be any actual evidence that supports the existence of this mysterious platform.
Approximate layout of the Bakerloo Line passing Broadcasting House
Theory 1There is an area in part of Broadcasting House's labarynthian basement known as the Stronghold which is in fact an old World War two bunker, built in 1941. When it was built, it consisted of several fully equipped studios along with all support equipment. In deed, one studio has been maintained until very recently but the whole area has now been decommissioned and is currently being demolished for the redevelopment of the building.
When built in 1941, the Stronghold was, although under ground, the only building at that position. The rest of the building was in fact built around the concrete bunker later after the War.
Within the Stronghold is a staircase that leads down two flights and effectively ends in a brick wall, known to staff as "the stairway to nowhere". It has been suggested that this is in fact the now blocked entrance down to the Bakerloo platform. I seriously doubt this. The staircase's location is quite a distance from the Bakerloo Line both horizontally and vertically.
There would have to be a shaft of at least 100 feet down and almost the same distance horizontally to reach the line. In fact, while there during a visit, we frequently heard the rumble of trains passing. In this part of the building we were in fact hearing the Victoria line, not the Bakerloo.
The purpose of this staircase is not a mystery. The Stronghold was built on land that the BBC already had plans to build on, but the building work was delayed as a result of the Second World War. The Stronghold was built with this extension in mind and the stairway was built to link into the proposed basement of this new building. When building work finally commenced after the War, the structure was different to the one originally planned and the originally proposed basement was no longer included in the plans so the stairway was never completed.
Although having a platform as an emergency subterranean exit for the wartime studios would be desirable, I suspect the sheer logistics of providing one would be too formidable.
BBC Broadcasting House is currently being extensively renovated and I have recently been informed that the Stronghold area iminently going to be demolished as part of this work.
Theory 2When built in 1932, Broadcasting House was provided with its own water supply - an Artesian well, which bores 600 feet down to the soft chalk layer beneath the building. This well was originally intended to be the building's water supply, capable of providing about a thousand gallons of water an hour. This has however never been used and is now sealed under a trap door beneath one of the studios.
People have suggested that since this well goes so deep, access to the Underground was also provided since this well is quite close to the Bakerloo. Again, I don't believe this is true - I have spoken to the people responsible for maintaining the building's utilities and they confirm that there is no access to anything other than the well at this point. Also photographs of the well's construction survive which show the well being created using a drill.
For this reason I doubt there's an access point here.
Theory 3Some think that there may indeed have been access from the basement at one point, but this has since been blocked during redevelopment. Some say this happened after the Second World War when the new section to the building was added - others say later.
I have seen many of the plans for Broadcasting House and spoken to others who have seen many more, including Lieut. Col. G. Val Myer's original designs for the structure and not a single one of these plans shows access to the Underground. If such access was originally planned or constructed, it should appear in at least some of these plans.
ConclusionI don't believe the platform exists or has ever existed. I've spoken to people whose business it is to know the intricacies of the building and although they too have heard the rumours, they don't know of any access to the tube. London Underground have no records of such a platform, either past or present and tube train operators familiar with that stretch have told me that there's nothing unusual to be seen along that stretch of line. I'm still open to the possibility that it may be there, now blocked off, but until concrete evidence turns up I shall remain skeptical.
Update 2006: Over the last couple of years, extensive work has been done in the refurbishment of BBC Broadcasting House. In fact, "refurbishment" is rather a weak word to describe the work... As the facade is a listed building, this couldn't be changed, but essentially, the building's innards have been completely gutted and rebuilt so that the studios are now on floating foundations. For the first time since the building was built, passing trains on the Bakerloo line can no longer be heard in the building!
If there was access to a platfom at Broadcasting House, it's almost certainly now lost. Nobody has mentioned such a platform during the building work - something that I'm sure would have made an interesting story should it have been discovered.
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Last modified: July 6th 2006
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