Great Portland Street is one of London’s original tube stations. It was part of the Metropolitan Railway line which was not just London’s but the world’s very first underground railway. Originally called Portland Road, it opened in January 1863. This became renowned as one of the smokiest parts of the underground network. Trains were steam powered and there was inadequate ventilation to street level. Younger people today are surprised to learn that until relatively recently (1987) you were able to smoke on the underground, but you could and you were guaranteed foul cigarette-smelling clothes as a consequence of the smoky carriages. One can only imagine what the trains were like when pulled by steam engines. There has indeed been progress in this area.

The current building replaced the original station in 1930 and in 1933 it was renamed Great Portland Street station which it is still called today. It was designed by the Metropolitan Railway’s architect Charles Walter Clark and the retail and cafe space, which now host a couple of eateries and a dry-cleaning shop, was originally used as a motor car show room for the company Stanley Hunt Limited. You can still see the name of this company on some of the metalwork inside the station. Clarke rebuilt a number of stations for Metropolitan Railways including Baker Street, Farringdon and Paddington. Stanley Hunt Limited survived until replaced by a cafe after the war.

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