There has been a station at Uxbridge since the late 1880s, but the current station (four platforms, two for each of the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines) was built in the 1930s when the Piccadilly line took over what had been the Uxbridge branch of the District. This station is one of the most iconic designs of Charles Holden, the greatest name in London Underground architecture.
This post will cover the Northern line, and as such it is going to be somewhat convoluted.
ORDER DECREASES OVER TIME
This section of the post deals with the history of the Northern line. The title above, which makes reference to the laws of thermodynamics is apposite for this line which has certainly become more disordered over its history.
THE CITY AND SOUTH LONDON RAILWAY
On December 18th 1890 a new development in public transport history occurred. The development of electric traction allowed use to be made of the comparative ease of tunnelling through the blue clay that lies beneath London to build deep level railways, called tubes because of the tunnelling method used. The City and South London Railway, running from Stockwell to King William Street with intermediate stations at Oval, Kennington, Elephant & Castle and Borough.
In 1900 the King William Street terminus was abandoned in favour of new stations at London Bridge, Bank and Moorgate, while the line was also extended south to Clapham North and Clapham Common. In 1903 the line was extended to Old Street and Angel.
THE CHARING CROSS, EUSTON & HAMPSTEAD RAILWAY
This line was opened in 1907, ending the great tube building boom of 1905-7 which also saw the genesis of the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines. It ran from Charing Cross to Golders Green with a branch to Highgate, the bifurcation point being Camden Town. The City and South London was extended to King’s Cross and Euston. Plans for an amalgamation were already developing.
THE NORTHERN CITY LINE
This was the original designation of what is now a section of mainline railway in tube tunnels running from Finsbury Park to Moorgate. This section of track opened in 1904, originally operated by the Metropolitan but a part of the Northern line for many years.
AMALGAMATION AND PLANS NOT COMPLETED
The 1920s saw a combination of the final amalgamation of the City & South London with the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead, with the latter being extended south to Kennington as part of the process. The complete line was extended to Morden, still the southern outpost of the system, in 1926. It was also in this period that the Northern line took over the Northen City section mentioned above, and that suburban branches of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) were subsumed, extending the northern termini to Mill Hill East, High Barnet and Edgware. As this map section makes clear, there were further plans that were never fulfilled.
At Edgware tunnels north of the station where the line was to have been extended are still visible. The last big change to affect the northern line was when the Northern City section became part of the mainline railway network in the 1970s.
Having looked at the past, it is time for a look to the future. Firstly, although I am normally a big fan of integration, I would split the northern line, so that there would be one line running from High Barnet to Morden via Bank, with a branch to Mill Hill East, and the other running from Edgware to Kennington via Charing Cross.
This line, comprising the Edgware and Charing Cross branches would be extended south from Kennington to East Croydon and on to Gatwick Airport, going via Brixton and Streatham among other places. Beyond Edgware, the line would go to Stonegrove, Newlands, Elstree High Street, Letchmore Heath, Aldenham and Garston, at which point it would share the Jubilee line route north to Hemel Hemsptead. There would also be a branch from Elstree High Street to Elstree and Borehamwood and then following the Thameslink route as far as Luton Airport Parkway.
HIGH BARNET – MORDEN
From High Barnet the line would go to Monken Hadley, Saffron Green, Well End, Shenley, Radlett and St Albans, possibly the running north to Luton Airport Parkway.
From Morden the line would extend south to Morden South, St Helier, North Cheam, Stoneleigh, Ewell West and Leatherhead, from where it would follow the existing route to Dorking.
Finally, the Mill Hill branch would be extended to Mill Hill Broadway, Edgware and Stanmore, from whence it could follow the Jubilee to Hemel Hempstead.
CONTINUED CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE LINES
These lines while separate entities, would still of course be closely connected, with interchanges agt Kennington and Camden Town, and new connections at St Albans and Edgware, but the scope of their services would be greatly extended without the complications the arise from all the branching the currently exists. Also of course, the track connections at Kennington and Camden Town would be preserved for stock transfer purposes.
THE NORTHERN LINE TODAY
Our journey will run from Morden to High Barnet via Bank, with a diversion to Mill Hill East, before we bounce back to Waterloo and head north from there to Edgware. So with the itinerary set out we begin at…
The current southern outpost of the system, and the only station at the southern end of the Northern line to be open to the elements. The station building, like all of those we will meet until Clapham South, is faced in Portland Stone. Here is a picture of this station under construction for you…
Morden is also one of the two end points of the Wandle Trail (the other is Mitcham Junction station).
Leaving Morden, we enter the longest continuous section of tunnel on the system, 17.3 miles via Bank to Finchley Central. The first station we arrive it in this section of tunnel is South Wimbledon. The surface building has a curved frontage. A short walk in one direction takes one to Wimbledon Station and many potential routes. Another route from the station crosses Croydon Tramlink, emerging at Wimbledon Chase (the station name is reflective of the pernicious practice called hunting).
This station has a ‘three-eighths of an octagon’ type frontage. Near here is the Sava Centre, a Sainsbury’s hypermarket. It was at a pub close to this station that I watched the first part of the coverage of the 1997 General Election, the first in which I was eligible to vote.
The first of two stations to have Tooting in their name. Like South Wimbledon this station has a curved frontage. It is built on top of a subterranean lake. Not far from this station is Graveney School, which regularly supplies ball boys and girls for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, and which I attended between 1986 and 1993. Also close to this station is the Sree Krishna, a high quality Indian Restaurant.
My home station for 20 years. This station, like Balham to the north has two surface buildings, on opposite corners of a four-way junction. This is one of them:
Tooting Bec Road is flanked by Tooting Bec Common on one side and Tooting Graveney Common on the other. Within Tooting Graveney Common is an athletics track. Nestling just near the railway which splits Tooting Bec Common is Tooting Bec Lido, a supersize outdoor swimming pool. Beyond the bridge, the common is bounded at one end by Garrads Road, while Ambleside Avenue takes one to Streatham Station and Tooting Bec Gardens leads through to Streatham High Road, by way of St Leonards Church.
BAL-HAM: GATEWAY TO THE SOUTH
This is one of the stations designed by Charles Holden and opened in 1926 when the Northern line was extended south to Morden (the southernmost point on the system, a mere 10 miles south of the centre of London – by comparison, Amersham, the most far flung station on the current network is 27 miles out, and Brill, the furthest ever outpost of any line is 51 miles out).
I can provide pictures of both surface buildings and some blurb about the station itself in the form of two photos of stuff in the book Bright Underground Spaces…
Although there are only five stations south of Balham on the Northern line, it is also a main-line railway station, and connects southwards to a number of destinations via three distinct routes, through Streatham Common, Streatham Hill and Hackbridge.
I made extensive use of Balham at one time, when I lived at Parklands Road and worked in New Malden, and it was easier to take a longer walk than strictly necessary and get a train to Clapham Junction, where I could change to another train for New Malden than to do anything else.
Also, given the the majority of it was through commons, the walk though long was quite a pleasant one.
To finish, as usual I have some map pics…
The first of three stations whose name begins with Clapham. This station is the last Holden designed station to feature in this post.
The southern terminus of the line from 1900 to 1926. This station and its neighbour Clapham North are the last two stations to sport the island platforms (one regular-sized platform between two sets of tracks) that were a feature of the City & South London Railway, although a couple of other stations have legacies of such platforms.
The other island-platform station. Near this station is Mary Seacole House, named in honour of a Jamaican born nurse who helped soldiers during the Crimean War. This deeply unprepossessing tower block houses offices used by Lambeth Council.
The first interchange between this line and another underground line (Balham and Clapham North both have connections to main line railway stations and IMO South Wimbledon is close enough to Wimbledon that that should be shown as an interchange) in this case the Victoria. This is a cross-platform interchange, one of four on the Victoria line. A change here is often advisable even if it means one more change than is strictly necessary for the journey (e.g Tooting Bec – Stockwell – Victoria – South Kensington is a quicker journey than Tooting Bec – Embankment – South Kensington) due to the extra speed of travel on the Victoria line.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE GAS HOLDERS
I am treating these two stations together because they are at opposite ends of the Oval cricket ground. Oval was one of the original six stations of the City and South London Railway, the world’s first deep-level tube railway, which opened in 1890. Vauxhall only opened as an underground station in 1971, part of the newest section of the Victoria line, but is also a main-line railway station and would have opened in that capacity long before Oval.
Today is the Saturday of the Oval test, by tradition the last of the summer. At the moment things are not looking rosy for England, but more spectacular turnarounds have been achieved (bowled at for 15 in 1st dig and won by 155 runs a day and a half later – Hampshire v Warwickshire 1922, 523-4D in 1st dig and beaten by ten wickets two days later – Warwickshire v Lancashire 1982 to give but two examples). The Oval in it’s long and illustrious history has seen some of test cricket’s greatest moments:
1880: 1st test match on English soil – England won by five wickets, Billy Murdoch of Australia won a sovereign from ‘W G’ by topping his 152 in the first innings by a single run.
1882: the original ‘Ashes’ match – the term came from a joke obituary penned after this game by Reginald Shirley Brooks. Australia won by 7 runs, England needing a mere 85 to secure the victory were mown down by Fred Spofforth for 77.
1886: A triumph for England, with W G Grace running up 170, at the time the highest test score by an England batsman. Immediately before the fall of the first England wicket the scoreboard nicely indicated the difference in approach between Grace and his opening partner William Scotton (Notts): Batsman no 1: 134 Batsman no 2: 34
1902: Jessop’s Match – England needing 263 in the final innings were 48-5 and in the last-chance saloon with the tables being mopped when Jessop arrived at the crease. He scored 104 in 77 minutes, and so inspired the remainder of the English batsmen, that with those two cool Yorkshiremen, Hirst and Rhodes together at the death England sneaked home by one wicket.
1926: England’s first post World ward I Ashes win, secured by the batting of Sutcliffe (161) and Hobbs (100) and the bowling of young firebrand Larwood and old sage Rhodes – yes the very same Rhodes who was there at the death 24 years earlier.
1938: The biggest margin of victory in test history – England win by an innings and 579. Australia batted without opener Jack Fingleton and even more crucially no 3 Don Bradman in either innings (it was only confirmation that the latter would not be batting that induced England skipper Hammond to declare at 903-7)
1948: Donald Bradman’s farewell to test cricket – a single boundary would have guaranteed him a three figure batting average, but he failed to pick Eric Hollies’ googly, collecting a second-ball duck and finishing wit a final average of 99.94 – still almost 40 runs an innings better than the next best.
1953: England reclaim the Ashes they lost in 1934 with Denis Compton making the winning hit.
1968: A South-African born batsman scores a crucial 158, and then when it looks like England might be baulked by the weather secures a crucial breakthrough with the ball, exposing the Australian tail to the combination of Derek Underwood and a rain affected pitch. This as not sufficient to earn Basil D’Oliveira an immediate place on that winter’s tour of his native land, and the subsequent behaviour of the South African government when he is named as a replacement for Tom Cartwright (offically injured, unoffically unwilling to tour South Africa) sets off a chain of events that will leave South Africa in the sporting wilderness for almost quarter of a century.
1975: Australia 532-9D, England 191 – England in the mire … but a fighting effort all the way down the line in the second innings, Bob Woolmer leading the way with 149 sees England make 538 in the second innings and Australia have to settle for the draw (enough for them to win the series 1-0).
1985: England need only a draw to retain the Ashes, and a second-wicket stand of 351 between Graham Gooch (196) and David Gower (157) gives them a position of dominance they never relinquish, although a collapse, so typical of England in the 1980s and 90s sees that high-water mark of 371-1 turn into 464 all out. Australia’s final surrender is tame indeed, all out for 241 and 129 to lose by an innings and 94, with only Greg Ritchie’s 1st innings 64 worthy of any credit.
2005: For the second time in Oval history an innings of 158 by a South-African born batsman will be crucial to the outcome of the match, and unlike in 1968, the series. This innings would see Kevin Peter Pietersen, considered by many at the start of this match as there for a good time rather than a long time, finish the series as its leading run scorer.
2009: A brilliant combined bowling effort from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann sees Australia all out for 160 after being 72-0 in their first innings, a debut century from Jonathan Trott knocks a few more nails into the coffin, and four more wickets for Swann in the second innings, backed by the other bowlers and by Andrew Flintoff’s last great moment in test cricket – the unassisted run out of Ricky Ponting (not accompanied by the verbal fireworks of Trent Bridge 2005 on this occasion!).
The above was all written without consulting books, but for those who wish to know more about test cricket at this iconic venue, there is a book dedicated to that subject by David Mortimer.
As usual I conclude this post with some map pics…
At this station the Northern line splits into two branches, one going via Charing Cross and the other via Bank, before a brief recombination at Camden Town and then a further bifurcation. If travelling from a point south of Kennington to a destination on the Charing Cross branch the advice is to get the first train and change at Kennington if necessary, since some Charing Cross branch services start from Kennington. Not far from this station is the Imperial War Museum.
ELEPHANT & CASTLE
An interchange with the Bakerloo line and also with mainline rail services. This area is being redeveloped.
One of only three stations on the Bank branch to have no interchanges. This station serves London’s most renowned food market.
Interchanges with the Jubilee line, in which context I wrote about it in detail, and mainline railways.
I covered this station in great detail when writing about the Central line.
This station has a connection to mainline railways (the Northern City section referred to earlier in this post). It serves Moorfields Eye Hospital.
This station has no interchanges. It possesses the longest escalators on the system (these claimed the record from Leicester Square, not Holborn as erroneously stated in this article). Shrewd observers may note that one of the platforms at this station is exceptionally wide. This is because until its fairly recent refurbishment, including the building of the escalators mentioned above, Angel still had an island platform, which was replaced as part of the work.
KINGS CROSS ST PANCRAS
I have written extensively about this station elsewhere on this site, so all I shall add is that the Northern line platforms at this station are the deepest of any at the station.
EUSTON AND EUSTON SQUARE
Euston Square, served nowadays by the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines is one of the 1863 originals, and as with Baker Street has been restored to look as it would have done when first opened. The City and South London Railway station at Euston was opened on May 12th 1907 and the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway on June 22nd 1907. These two together are now the Northern line, and occupy four platforms here – although widely separated – to change between the two branches you would be well advised to continue northwards to Camden Town where the interchange is cross-platform. The Victoria line station opened on December 1st 1968.
The southbound platform on the Bank branch of the Northern line is very wide at this station because when it was opened as the City and South London Railway station there were two tracks either side of an island platform (an arrangement still in evidence at Clapham Common and Clapham North), and the extra width of that platform comes from the reorginastion when this arrangement was deemed unsuitable for such a busy station.
INTRODUCING THE RAILWAY DETECTIVE
Euston was the first of London’s railway terminals to open, serving the London and North Western Railway, and it was on that route that Edward Marston’s greatest creation, The Railway Detective (a.k.a Inspector Robert Colbeck) investigated the case that first earned him that title (and introduced him to his future wife). These stories are set thus far) in the 1850s, before the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in 1863, but I could see Colbeck still being in business when that momentous event occurs. He would undoubtedly embrace the underground railway wholeheartedly, although his colleague Sergeant Leeming would take some persuading of its virtues!
CONCLUSION AND PICS
I hope that you have enjoyed this post and will be inspired to share it. Here are a couple of pictures to finish…
The Diagrammatic History.
This station is best known for having given its name to a game.
A double bifurcation point, as south of here the line splits in Bank and Charing Cross branches, while to the north it splits into High Barnet and Edgware branches. This is also the closest station to London Zoo.
For more on Camden Town, and a view of the area from a different perspective you can see what Ester makes of it on her Travelling Around The World blog by clicking here.
From 1907 until 1924 there was an intermediate station called South Kentish Town, which was closed due industrial action at Lots Road Power Station and in the event never re-opened. This station has an interchange with mainline railway services. The surface level platforms are spanned by a pedestrian bridge which means that direct access to streets on both sides of the station is possible.
This station is currently closed, officially expected to reopen in 2017.
One of the original northern termini of the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead. Close to this station is the point at which Dick Whittington legendarily turned back towards London and a career that would see him become Lord Mayor of London.
OF MUSIC AND MARX
A CURIOUS HISTORY
One stop south of Highgate is Archway, which opened in 1907 and was for some time the northern terminus of the line. One stop to the north is East Finchley, which was first served by Northern line trains in 1939, having previously been part of the LNER. Highgate, our subject, only opened in 1941 – something of an afterthought.
TO THE UNKNOWN GODDESS
This title comes from a CD case, and concerns a story that began almost 400 years ago and that touches on Highgate…
In 1619 a servant girl the household of the dramatist, librettist and poet Giulio Strozzi gave birth to an illegitimate child. The child, Barbara Strozzi, grew up in the household, becoming Giulio’s “figliuola elettiva” (elective daughter). Encouraged by Giulio she developed considerable musical talents and became known in her own lifetime as a composer and performer.
She is not so well known these days, but it was at Highgate that I first heard her music. The performance featured the same four people as the CD (Catherine Bott, Paula Chateauneuf, Timothy Roberts and Frances Kelly), which I bought that very evening.
A FAMOUS GRAVE
To be fair, quite a few well known people are buried in Highgate Cemetery, but I am confining myself to one. Karl Marx was buried there in 1883, and Marxism 2015, a five-day political event begins in London tomorrow afternoon. I will be there and I intend to put up regular blog posts and tweet about being at the event – watch this space. For much more detail and a different perspective on Highgate Cemetery I recommend this post onalicevstheworld.
One of three stations with Finchley in its name. This is also the last station on this section of the line to be in tunnel.
This station is at surface level, and looks exactly like a rural railway station, not least because that is how it (and the rest of this section of the line on to High Barnet) started life, as a part of the London & North Eastern Railway’s network of local services. Thus we have the paradoxical situation whereby the oldest stations on the line (dating from 1872) have been served for less long by this line than ay of the others. Although we will be following the mainline to High Barnet first we have a little diversion to make to…
MILL HILL EAST
Although this is a very minor spur of track it does include one system-wide record holder. The Dollis Brook Viaduct on this branch is 60 feet above the surface, the highest point of elevation above ground anywhere on the system. Mill Hill East station is itself elevated, though not sufficiently so to warrant up escalators from the street as seen at Alperton.
The third and last of the Finchleys.
WOODSIDE PARK and TOTTERIDGE & WHETSTONE
These two stations are attractive, with platforms in the style of the LNER with whom they started life.
The end of the line. There is open country beyond the station.
Having finished the Bank and High Barnet branches, it is time to take on the Charing Cross and Edgware branches, and of course we have already covered Kennington. I have written in great detail about Waterloo in my posts on the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines.
I wrote in detail about this station in my post on the District line. However a couple of Northern line specific things deserve mention here. Firstly, there are floodgates on the the Northern line platforms because the Thames is directly overhead. Second, this station is further below sea-level than any other on the system, 67 feet to be precise. Third and final due to the fact that the southbound platform uses what was a terminal loop in the days of the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead there is famously a gap between the platform edge and the trains, hence “Mind The Gap”.
This station was originally called Strand, and was not recognized as having an interchange with Charing Cross main line station. Both Charing Cross and its close neighbour Embankment have been through many name changes down the years. The Bakerloo line platforms that now have the name Charing Cross were originally opened as Trafalgar Square. It was the opening of the Jubilee line in 1979 with it’s southern terminus at Charing Cross that led to these two stations being shown as an interchange, because both did have an interchange to the Jubilee line, although the interchange from the Northern to the Bakerloo at this station would not have been advisable in any circumstance – Embankment and Waterloo are both much better options. Charing Cross Station is the centre of the 10KM (6 Miles) radius circle within which drivers of black cabs are required to know everything. This is called “The Knowledge”, a designation which may come from a quote from the world’s most famous consulting detective, in The Adventure of the Red Headed League, when he tells Watson “It is a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of London”. For more specific detail about Charing Cross and its neighbour Embankment check out this post.
Until the refurbishment of Angel this station possessed the longest escalators on the system at 161 feet in length. It serves an area of London known both for its Chinese Restaurants and for its Theatres – one designation for this part of London is Theatreland. Additonally, for map lovers, Stanford’s, the greatest of all map shops, is just down the road from this station. There is an interchange to the Piccadilly line here.
TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD
An interchange to the Central line, and from 2017 (if the project is completed on schedule, which in British public transport terms is a big if) Crossrail. This postcard shows the current layout of the station:
Tottenham Court Road is in London’s busiest shopping district. Unique among the shops to be found here is Bookmarks. Also, very close to this station is the British Museum. Recent Developments at this station are covered in this piece from Time Out.
A very long and convoluted interchange with the Victoria line is possible here – although one stop beyond, to Euston would surely be better. This station is even closer to UCL than Goodge Street, while a stroll round the corner takes one to Euston Square, and the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines. Also, like the previous two stations this one is within eyesight of a very distinctive tower, in its case the BT Tower.
ON TO THE EDGWARE BRANCH
Euston and Camden Town have already been covered while talking about the Bank branch, so it is time to move on to…
This station was at one time my aunt’s local station. Access to the surface is provided by lifts here, as also at the next two stations.
This station opened in 1907 as part of the original section of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway, which was subsequently amalgamated with the City and South London Railway to form the Northern line. It is located on the Edgware branch, two stops beyond the bifurcation point of Camden Town and one stop south of Hampstead. Like its northerly neighbour it is very deep, and accessible from the street only by lift or staircase. Although it is shown on the maps as offering no interchanges, Gospel Oak on London Overground is walkable should one ever have reason to make such a change.
MURDER ON THE UNDERGROUND
This is the title of a book by 1930s crime writer Mavis Doriel Hay. The murder itself takes place on the stairs mentioned above, and all the action is set around this section of the northern line. Having just read the book I heartily recommend at and am looking forward to reading the other book of hers I have located at one of thelibraries I patronise, Murder on the Cherwell, set in another place I have a more than passing acquaintance with, Oxford.
This is the deepest station anywhere on the system, 192 feet below the surface. Just north of here is the deepest point on the network, 221 feet below the surface of Hampstead Heath. This gives the Northern line three records relating to the station’s vertical location – deepest below sea level, deepest below surface and highest above surface. The remaining record, highest above sea level is held by Amersham, 500 feet up in the Chilterns. Access the the surface is gained by lifts, or if you are up for major climb or are seriously claustrophobic by way of 350 stairs.
A station to have been called either North End or Bull & Bush was excavated at platform level but never built, meaning that the next station we reach is…
Given the record held by Hampstead, and the supplementary record held by a sport just north of Hampstead towards this station, you might expect that this station would still be in tunnel, but it is actually at surface level. The principal depot for the Northern line is located at this station.
Brent Cross is home to a major shopping centre. For this part of the route the line is elevated above surface level giving rise to the infrequent sight of a viaduct with the London Underground logo on the side.
Although this station is correctly shown as having no interchanges, it is only a 13-minute walk from Hendon Thameslink Station. This station is in two fare zones, 3 and 4. This is not very frequent, although the Northern line boasts several examples: South Wimbledon (3 and 4), Clapham South (2 and 3), Elephant & Castle (1 and 2), Archway (2 and 3) and here. Hendon was the birthplace of sporting legend (5,000 test runs for England and FA Cup Winners medal with Arsenal) Denis Compton.
This station is located near Hendon Aerodrome, which now houses the RAF Museum.
The second last station on our journey, and not notable in any way.
Just beyond this station two tunnel openings can be seen, all that currently remains of plans for an extension to Elstree and Aldenham. Like Uxbridge and Stanmore among other London Underground termini this has bus stands directly outside the station building.
HISTORY AND MODERN CONNECTIONS IN MAP FORM
These final maps show the whole line, first its history, and then its modern day connections…
For mainstream non-specialist books I always direct people to book depository because they do free worldwide delivery. The books that I have mentioned in this post to which this applies are:
I have only used two maps in this piece. One of those, the modern London Connections Map, which has Southeast England’s railways on its reverse side, is obtainable free of charge at a wide variety of locations (I picked mine up at King’s Lynn bus station). The other, the Diagrammatic History, can be obtained from Stanford’s, the map specialists based in Covent Garden, very close to the London Transport Museum.
My thanks and congratulations to those of you who have made it all the way through this long and convoluted post. I hope consider ti worthwhile, and will spread the word both about this post and about the website.
This post is associated with my “London Station by Station” series. I was gratified by the response that overview of the Hammersmith and City line received, and so now I am producing a piece about the Piccadilly line which will be much longer, as there is is much more to say…
The Piccadilly line came into existence as a compromise project taking elements from three distinct schemes. An excellent explanation for this is provided by Desmond F. Croome in his “The Piccadilly Line: An Illustrated History”
Still, not event the combination of this bizarre origin and the schemozzle at Heathrow gains the Piccadilly line the status of London Underground’s no 1 bodge job – for more about that you will have to wait until I feel strong enough to tackle the Northern line!
To give you an overview of the line both in its history and as it stands today here a some images…
Having set the scene, it is time to strap yourselves in for…
I am starting slightly out of position, for reasons that will reveal themselves at the end of the post, with Southgate, which I have given a previous post in the series. For full details you will need to read that post, but Southgate has two features of significance to me: it was the home of the Walker brothers, and in that context Middlesex still play some games of cricket at the Walker ground; and it is home to quirk illustrated by this picture…
That attended to, we can now get back on the journey proper starting at…
This station opened in 1933, and still today it is in a very rural setting. Other than being the starting point for our journey it has no real distinguishing features.
In the direction in which we travel, this marks a transition point – this is the last station at surface level until we emerge at Barons Court.
This is one of two stations, the other being a main line railway station, Alexandra Palace, which serve Alexandra Palace. Whichever you choose you have a long climb ahead of you to reach your objective, although it is worth it for the views at the end. This picture, courtesy of google, shows some of the frontage of the palace itself…
This is the Piccadilly line’s first interchange with any other in our direction of travel. As well as a connection to mainline railways, there is a cross-platform interchange to the Victoria line. It was also the original terminus at this end of the line when the Piccadilly line opened in 1907. Because it was after I had made this particular change in reverse that I got the picture in question, here is a Piccadilly route map as seen in train carriage…
The only station on London Underground to be named after a football club. The club which started life as Dial Square, changed its name to Woolwich Arsenal, of which it was originally the works team and then moved away from Woolwich, dropping the prefix of its name has since moved yet again, to another new stadium. Herbert Chapman who had earlier won three successive championships with Huddersfield Town and even earlier been lucky to survive a match fixing scandal that saw his then club Leeds City thrown out of the league was the person who successfully suggested the name change from the original Gillespie Road, with greater success than Mr Selfridge had enjoyed with his suggestion to the then independent Central London Railway that they might care to rename Bond Street station in honour of his establishment.
I have covered this both in an individual post and in the earlier piece about the Hammersmith and City line. To these I add only that the Piccadilly line is the second deepest line at the station, the Northern line being deeper.
Russell Square is one of the few deep level stations to have no escalators – you have a choice between lifts or stairs. It is also the closest station to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where I was a patient for over a year of my life, in my case in the Mildred Creak unit. For more details about how to locate this hospital, check out their own guide.
One final Russell Square connection – it is the home station for the Institute of Education, which is a regular venue for the annual five-day political festival Marxism and also happens to the place that I visited the first time I ever took part in an Autism Research project – this one being carried out by a woman named Sian Fitzpatrick.
This station is the only official interchange between the Piccadilly and Central lines. When I first used it as a child there were wooden escalators – mind this was in an era when deep-level tube trains using carriages with maple slatted floors and wooden side panels had smoking compartments – health and safety was not considered so important then. Today, Holborn is an ordinary mid-route station, but that was not always the case, and I believe it should not be the case. This is the preamble to…
A MAJOR DIGRESSION
From 1907 until 1994 there was a branch running south from Holborn to Aldwych. It was not doing much by the end of its life, but closure was not the only option – it was ideally placed for an extension into Southeast London and West Kent. I have already linked to the post I put up about Aldwych early on in this series, but in that post I did not give details of my envisaged extension, an omission I rectify as part of this project.
Reestablishing the Aldwych connection, the route would then go:
Blackfriars (District, Circle, mainline railways), London Bridge (Northern – Bank branch, Jubilee, mainline railways), Bermondsey (Jubilee), Surrey Quays (London Overground), Mudchute (DLR), Cutty Sark (DLR), Greenwich Park, Blackheath (mainline railways), Eltham High Street, New Eltham, Longlands, Sidcup High Street, Foots Cray, Ruxley, Hockenden, Crockenhill, Hulberry, Eynsford (mainline railways), Maplescombe, West Mingsdown, Fairseat, Vigo Village, Ditton, Maidstone West (mainline railways), Maidstone East (mainline railways).
The Maidstone connection is important because very isolated ends of lines can end up not getting much use (see Ongar in this series), and by extending it the extra distance to have both the interchanges in and population of Maidstone to bolster its usage one increases the likelihood of it working. The other particularly significant stop in the outer reaches of the extension is Eynsford, not major enough to be a suitable terminus, but definitely has much worth visiting, led by the scenic Darent Valley and the historic Roman Villa down the road at Lullingstone.
BACK TO THE JOURNEY
The digression done, it is time to resume our progress along the Piccadilly, which next takes us to…
I have already covered this area at some length in a previous post to which I now direct you. What I failed to mention in that post is that there is also a quite pleasant walking route from here to Waterloo, and all the attractions I have listed in that post.
This station has a connection to the Northern line (Charing Cross branch). Also, until the refurbishment of Angel (Northern, Bank branch) it had the longest escalators to be found anywhere on the system. At 0.16 miles apart it and Covent Garden are the two closest neighbours on the entire system. Leicester Square serves an area of London known as Chinatown.
The station that gives its name to the line, it has an interchange with the Bakerloo line. Piccadilly is home to the Eros statue. It features in at least two series of novels set in Restoration England, Edward Marston’s Redmayne series and Susannah Gregory’s Chaloner series.
Interchanges with the Victoria and Jubilee lines.
HYDE PARK CORNER
One of several stations serving London’s largest park. This is also the local station for the Albert Hall.
Museum central – see the first post in this series for more detail. Also, the point at which one the projects that were fused together to make the Piccadilly line – a plan for a ‘deep level District’ line to ease congestion on the original District – from here to Earls Court the Piccadilly follows the District exactly, then skips West Kensington, joining the District at the surface at Barons Court. After Hammersmith the Piccadilly runs fast to Acton Town while the district has intermediate stops at Ravenscourt Park, Stamford Brook, Turnham Green and Chiswick Park. Occasional Piccadilly trains stop at Turnham Green where the Richmond branch of the District diverges, but the major branching point is…
Nowadays the District only goes beyond Acton Town as far as Ealing Broadway, but the entire Uxbridge branch of the Piccadilly and the Heathrow branch as far as Hounslow West were originally served by the District and feature platforms at the compromise height used for cross-platform interchanges between ‘tube’ and ‘subsurface’ lines. This station adjoins the Acton Works, where rolling stock is maintained and overhauled. We will explore the Heathrow branch first…
ALWAYS AVOID ALL ALLITERATION
The joke instruction used as this section heading refers to the fact that the three Hounslow’s, Hatton Cross and the three Heathrow stations all being with the letter H – and if you are on a train running the loop route (Terminals 1,2 and 3 and then terminal 4, as opposed to the direct Terminal 5 route), you would in total, between departing Hounslow East one way and returning there in the other direction see station names beginning with H 11 times on the trot.
THE HEATHROW SCHEMOZZLE
When the Piccadilly was first extended to serve Heathrow one station, unimaginatively named Heathrow Central was deemed sufficient. Then, in 1986, Terminal 4 opened, and was not accessible from the existing station. A terminal loop was constructed with a new station built on it to serve Terminal 4. So far, so good, but then the folk who run Heathrow decided that a mere four terminals were insufficient for the number of flights they wanted to run, and a fifth terminal, not accessible from either existing station was built. So we now have a bizarre configuration whereby there is simultaneously a terminal loop and an ordinary direct terminus constructed specially to serve Terminal 5. Quite what sort of arrangement will result if and when a Terminal 6 gets the go-ahead is beyond me to imagine.
I have covered the quirky feature of this station in a previous post.
There are two stations on this branch bearing the name Sudbury, Sudbury Hill an Sudbury Town. I am concentrating on the latter because as a Grade 1 listed building it stands as an example of the best of London Underground architecture. Like so many of the finest examples, this station was designed by the legendary Charles Holden. To find out more about Holden and his work I recommend strongly that you consult David Lawrence’s magnificent Bright Underground Spaces, in which I located these pictures that relate to Sudbury Town…
The last station before this branch meets the Metropolitan for the run to Uxbridge. The Metropolitan converges from a station called West Harrow, while all the other branches of that line bar the Uxbridge one pass through North Harrow. Once upon a time a school opened to serve “30 poor children of the parish of Harrow”. The school is still there, but it is a long time since any poor children got to go there.
This is the meeting point, and for a long time this was a regular terminating point for Piccadilly line services except at peak periods. This is the last marked interchange on the Piccadilly line, although you could change to the Metropolitan anywhere between here and Uxbridge should you desire it.
RUISLIP MANOR AND RUISLIP
Ruislip is an occasional terminating point, although most trains that go that far go on to Uxbridge. These two stations both serve Ruislip Lido, home to among other things the smallest gauge passenger carrying railway in Britain. I have assembled some links for you:
I mentioned earlier in this post that Holborn is the only officially recognised interchange between the Piccadilly and Central lines. For all that is in the region of a 10 minute walk to get from this station to West Ruislip I consider that this should be a recognised interchange – for more detail consult this post.
The current Hillingdon station opened in 1992, but there was an earlier Hillingdon station which opened in 1923. In 1934 this station was renamed Hillingdon (Swakeleys). The suffix was gradually dropped over time, but leaves the question “what is Swakeleys?” to have such significance. The answer, as an internet search reveals is that it is a school. As far as can ascertain it is the only school to have officially formed part of a station name (the stations with Harrow in their name refer to the location not the the school per se). There is also a well known hospital in Hillingdon.
We have reached the end of our journey. The present Uxbridge station opened in 1934, but there has been a station at Uxbridge since 1903. In so far as anywhere so rural can be this is something of a transport hub as several bus services make use of the station forecourt. Now it is time to reveal the solution to the teaser I set as to why I started out of position at Southgate: the connection is a cricketing one – yes we are back in Middlesex out ground territory. Sadly, other than knowing that Middlesex sometimes play there I cannot recall anything about cricket at Uxbridge – no remarkable matches spring to mind, nor great players especially associated with the ground.
SOME FINAL WORDS
This post does not make any claim to be a definitive account of the Piccadilly line – it is a strictly personal view of the highlights of the line that has more stations than any other deep level ‘tube’ lines and is only beaten by the District among the ‘subsurface’ lines, and I have ignored many stations altogether and given quite a few others only sparse coverage. I hope that you have all enjoyed the ride!