Saturday 27 April 2024

Baker Street's posters from the past

Baker Street Station is one of the oldest on London's Underground. It was one of the seven stations on the first line, the Metropolitan, which opened in 1863. The Metropolitan Line grew, the Circle and Bakerloo Lines were added, and the number of station users increased, so the decision was taken to rebuild the station from 1910. Unsurprisingly, there are all sorts of historical features and traces of the past still present today - including some vintage advertisements. 

One is visible on the platform, advertising 'London's new restaurant' in Chiltern Court. Don't be fooled! Chiltern Court is very much there, but its restaurant 'open to non-residents' is long gone. 

Photograph of an advertisement, now behind glass, reading 'Metropolitan Line. Chiltern Court - London's New Restaurant - Baker Street Station. Entrances from Booking Hall and Station Approach. Open to non-residents.'


The reference to non-residents may sugggest a hotel - and indeed that was the original plan for the building above the station. However, the First World War prevented the hotel from being built and instead, Chiltern Court was constructed in the late 1920s. It opened in 1929, the largest block of flats in London. Amenities included the Chiltern Court Restaurant, convenient for occupants and, as our advertisement points out, non-residents too. Luncheon, afternoon tea and dinner were all offered, with a table d'hote dinner costing six shillings and sixpence in 1933.

The restaurant survived long enough to get a mention in Metro-land, the 1973 documentary written by Sir John Betjeman. He asked, 'Is this Buckingham Palace? Are we at the Ritz? No.' It later closed and was used for a spell as the London Transport Recruitment Centre. Today, it is open for dining again (albeit without 'perfect cuisine and faultless service') as the Wetherspoons-owned Metropolitan Bar. Look at the ceiling for a glimpse of its past glories!

Photograph of dirt-stained, tattered theatre posters. Fragments of the names of Shakespeare plays are visible, and the words 'Tilly of Bloomsbury' are large and legible in the centre.

To see the other poster, you need to take a Hidden London tour of the station (highly recommended: there's lots to see!). In a disused passage, once providing access to lifts, is an advertisement for theatre performances. 'Tilly of Bloomsbury', playing at the Apollo Theatre, is the most legible. This 1919 play, a comedy, tells the story of a poor young woman who falls in love with an aristocrat. She pretends to be from a noble background but the truth is eventually exposed when his family meet hers. The play continues to be perfomed, albeit generally by amateur companies rather than in West End theatres; it was also made into a film two years later, and again in 1931 and 1940. The BBC televised a live studio production of it in 1948. However, we can date this poster more closely: fragments of the names of George Grossmith Jr and Edward Laurillard are visible at the top. They produced the play at the Apollo in 1919 and then managed the theatre between 1920 and 1923, before terminating their partnership. These posters are even older than the restaurant advert, then, but they too provide a tantalising glimpse of interwar London life.

The fine meals and comic performances may be long gone, but their ghosts linger below Baker Street.