The station opened as Strand station on 30 November 1907, and was served only by a shuttle service to Holborn, except for a single late-night service that ran through to Finsbury Park for the benefit of theatre-goers. This was withdrawn in 1908, and by 1912 the two-train shuttle had been reduced to one train. The branch officially became single track in 1918.
The station was renamed "Aldwych" in 1917 so that the name Strand could be given to what later became the Northern Line part of Charing Cross tube station. A shuttle service continued to run to Aldwych until 1940, when the branch was closed and the operational platform at the station used as a public air-raid shelter. The second, already disused platform and running tunnel were used to store the Elgin Marbles and other artefacts from the British Museum and other institutions. Service was restored in 1946 and continued until 30 September 1994, when the cost of a lift replacement was considered uneconomic, and the branch was closed.
Over the years the station has been a popular location for film and television companies wanting to film on the Underground. As the branch is entirely self-contained and closed at weekends, its facilities could be put at the disposal of film crews much more easily than those of more active parts of the underground. The station's second platform (Platform 6) closed in 1917, having been converted into a war-time hostel. Since 1994, the branch's remaining platform at Aldwych (Platform 5) has been used to test mock-up designs for new platform signage and advertising systems.
The closed station still has many of its original 1907 features, including tiling and signage. The surface building is hired out for events, functions and art exhibitions. It is visible from the Strand, opposite St Mary le Strand church. A restoration of the building's façade has revealed the original name of the station.
Despite being closed since 1994 the station still appears on a number of station listings along the Piccadilly line. The trackwork and infrastructure remains in good condition, and a train of ex-Northern Line 1972 tube stock is permanently stabled on the branch—this train can be driven up and down the branch for filming and to keep the trackwork in good repair. The physical connection with the Piccadilly line Eastbound remains, but requires manual operation. In 2002, a heritage train of 1938 tube stock was used for filming, which required temporary removal of the 1972 unit to Ruislip for the duration.
When the Fleet Line (later to become the Jubilee Line) was being planned in the 1970s, it was envisaged that it would run from Charing Cross via Aldwych and Ludgate Circus and on to East London. The eastwards plan was scrapped, but a few hundred yards of experimental tunnel were dug close to the East London Line at New Cross and the main running tunnels continue much of the way from Charing Cross to Aldwych. This tunnel still exists but is unused.
Many films and television productions have been shot at Aldwych, including:
In Patriot Games, a 1992 film starring Harrison Ford, a bookseller leaves his shop in Piccadilly and – rather curiously, given their relative locations – enters Aldwych station, where an announcement is given that a train will call at Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus (the nearest station to where he started) and Oxford Circus. This would have been an impossible sequence from Aldwych and, indeed, from anywhere without changing lines (from the Piccadilly to the Bakerloo) at Piccadilly Circus.
Fightstar's "Waste A Moment" video was also shot here.