This post features a hub station which is also close to numerous attractions.
Like all of London’s major railway stations this one has its origins in the mid 19th century. This map shows London Bridge and its connections in 1897…
In 1900 The City & South London Railway, the world’s first deep level ‘tube’ railway abandoned its badly sited King William Street terminus and opened three new stations at its northern end, London Bridge, Bank and Moorgate (for more about the subsequent history of this railway and what it became click here. In 1999, delayed and warped out of recognition by the greed and vanity of successive governments, the Jubilee line opened its long-awaited extension, one of the new stations on which was London Bridge. London Bridge was until recently part of the Thameslink route but is no longer so. These days there is an interchange available to Transport for London’s Riverboat Service as well.
There are two major attractions served by London Bridge. HMS Belfast is a historic warship, which for many years has been a floating museum (I visited several times as a child) and is now run under the aegis of the Imperial War Museum. The second attraction is the London Dungeon, which occupies what was once the notorious Clink Street Prison (from which the phrase ‘in the clink’ for ‘in prison’ comes) and styles itself London’s most frightening place.
London Bridge is ideally placed as a starting and/or finishing point for walks along the Thames. Westward as far as Waterloo is all good walking, while eastward lie Maritime Greenwich and, for the seriously energetic, Woolwich. This, from 100 Walks in Greater London, is a recommneded walk featuring some of what I have just mentioned…
Note that the Museum of the Moving Image has closed down since this book was produced.
AN AUCTION LOT
This, conveniently tallying with the theme of this post, is lot 604 in James and Sons‘ March Auction (two day sale, 30th and 31st March at Fakenham Racecourse – this item will be going under the hammer early in the second day)…
A FEW MAPS
I conclude this post with two map pictures, one from the Diagrammatic History and one from a modern London Connections Map…
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.
The title of this post comes from the title of Piers Connor’s history of the District Line, which is getting the aspiblog treatment this week…
As with that of it’s second youngest, the Victoria, almost precisely a century later, London’s second oldest underground line’s initial opening occurred in three phases between 1868 and 1871. After the third and final phase of opening the Metropolitan District Railway (as it was officially called at that time) looked like this:
A running theme of these early years were squabbles between the District and the Metropolitan over the completion of The Inner Circle (now the Circle line) and who could run their trains where. In the 1870s the District started producing maps for the benefit of their passengers, as these pictures show…
I do not know what these very early maps looked like, but here is a picture of my facsimile of a pre-Beck geographical map…
The Richmond and Wimbledon branches were both opened during the 1870s, followed by branches to Hounslow (the origin of the Heathrow branch of today’s Piccadilly line), Uxbridge (again handed over to the Piccadilly in the 1930s) and between 1883 and 1885, before being pared back to Ealing Broadway, Windsor (more on this later). The current eastern terminus of Upminster was reached (by a grant of running powers rather than new build) in 1902, and for a brief period as this reproduction postcard shows occasional District line trains ran to Southend and Shoeburyness…
Additionally, a branch to Kensington Olympia was created, which linked to a corresponding branch south from whatt is now the Hammersmith and City. Also, sometimes services ran from the district line north of Olympia to Willesden Junction. Additionally, there was a spur to South Acton and even briefly a terminus specifically to serve Hounslow Barracks.
In the 1930s a lot of the western services (Hounslow and Uxbridge specifically) were transferred to the Piccadilly line, while the Hounslow Barracks service ceased to exist, and the South Acton spur was abandoned.
Nevertheless, with main western termini at Wimbledon, Richmond and Ealing, and a cross branch serving Wimbledon, Edgware Road and Kensington Olympia the District remains a very complicated line.
Although I leave the eastern end of the line unchanged, my suggestions for the District involve some very dramatic changes. My plans for the Wimbledon, Edgware Road and Olympia branches will form the subject of a later post, and for the moment I will settle for saying that these branches would cease to form part of the District line, and that as with my changes involving branches that would remain part of the District line the plans involve making use of a feature that might otherwise be problematic (see The Great Anomaly), the fact that being one the older lines, this line was built to mainline specifications. Although my plans for the Richmond and Ealing branches are big, they involve only a small amount of new track – enough to link the lines that serve Windsor and Eton Riverside and Windsor and Eton Central forming a giant loop at the western end of the line. This loop would link with my suggested London Orbital Railway at Staines and at West Drayton. Thus in place of the current fiendishly complex District Line there would be ‘horizontal frying pan’ line, with Upminster to Turnham Green serving as the handle in this model. It would also make possible a reissue with appropriate modifications of this old poster…
A GUIDED TOUR OF THE PRESENT-DAY DISTRICT LINE
From Richmond to Gunnersbury the District and London Overground share a route, which features one of only two above-ground crossings of the Thames on the entire network (the other is Putney Bridge – East Putney on the Wimbledon branch of the District). Richmond features a deer park, as advertised on this old poster…
Kew Gardens actually has a pub that is built into the station, and serves a world famous botanic garden…
Gunnersbury is not very significant, although the flying junction that this branch forms with the rest of the District line just beyond here and just before Turnham Green is very impressive, to the extent that it too has featured in a PR campaign back in the day…
The section from Ealing Broadway to Acton Town includes a depot which features the steepest gradient on the system at 1 in 28 (passengers are not carried over this gradient – the steepest passenger carrying gradient is 1 in 32). At Ealing Common the District and Piccadilly lines converge, not to diverge again until the Piccadilly goes underground just east of Barons Court and even then, the Piccadilly follows the District at a deeper level until South Kensington. Between Acton Town and Turnham Green the District calls at Chiswick Park. After Turnham Green the District has stations at Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park. From the latter the remains of the viaduct that once carried trains from what is now the Hammersmith and City lines onto these tracks can still be seen. Beyond Hammersmith and Barons Court the District calls at West Kensington before arrving at the grand meeting point of Earls Court. Immediately east of Earls Court is Gloucester Road (pronounced glos-ta not glue-cess-ta – Americans please note), which at platform level has been restored to something like it would have looked in 1868, while the frontage at surface level is as nearly restored as the creation of a new shopping centre permits…
One stop further east at South Kensington is an original shopping arcade of the sort that several stations were provided with back in the day, complete with some splendid decorative ironwork (pictures photographed from London underground: The Official Handbook…)
One stop on from South Kensington is Sloane Square, which I remember from growing up in London is the station that served Peter Jones (a huge department store). Also, a large pipe above the platforms here is the only routinely visible sign of the river Westbourne (for more detail click here). From Sloane Square, the line visits Victoria (the ultimate transport hub). We are about enter a section of the journey featuring a lot of landmarks, so I will be giving each station I cover a section heading, starting with…
ST JAMES PARK
This station is the local station for London Underground’s official headquarters, located at 55 Broadway. It is also, along with Temple and Mansion House one only three stations on this section if the district to be served only by the district and circle lines.
The local station for the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey (officially the Collegiate Church of St Peter). The Abbey was originally founded by Edward the Confessor, who reigned from 1042-1066. While many look askance at the amounts of money trousered by folks in the House of Commons these people are at least elected, whereas in the House of Lords large sums of money go to people who are not elected, some of whom barely bother to attend and the vast majority of whom have demonstrated time and again that they are a waste of space. Even Baron Kinnock of Bedwelty, who has personally profited hugely from the existence of the House of Lords reckons that it is ripe for abolition. Since the opening of the warped (I will not dignify it with the word modified) Jubilee line extension in 1999 there has been an interchange here.
The station that has been through more name changes than any other on the system (people couldn’t decide whether Charing Cross, Embankment or both should be emphasised). The issue was put to bed for good in 1979 when the Jubilee opened, and its Charing Cross terminus created interchanges with what had previously been separate stations, Trafalgar Square on the Bakerloo line and Strand on the Northern, which meant that with Charing Cross definitively settled on for the marginally more northerly of the stations, this one had to be plain Embankment. The Embankment from which this station takes its name was designed as part of the building of this line by Joseph William Bazalgette, who also designed London’s sewer system. His great-great grandson Peter is a well known TV producer with some good series to his credit and Big Brother to his debit. This, photographed from the Piers Connor book is a diagram of the profile of the Embankment…
This is the only station name to feature both on London Underground and the Paris Metro (it also features on the Hong Kong network). In the days before the Aldwych branch of the Piccadilly line was axed there was an interchange here, as Temple is very close to Aldwych.
A station which derives its name from the Dominicans, who were referred to as black friars because of the colour of their habits. There is an interchange with both Thameslink and South Eastern here. Also, it is one end point of short scenic walk, which takes in a bridge over the Thames, Gabriel’s Wharf, The Oxo Tower, the Bernie Spain Gardens and the vast collection of attractions that between them constitute The South Bank, finally ending at Waterloo. Also if you go East instead of West after crossing the river you can take in the ruins of Winchester Palace (the former London residence of the Bishop of Winchester) and Clink Street, once home to a prison so notorious that ‘clink’ became slang for prison, a building that now houses London Dungeon, ending at London Bridge (you could continue yet further east – to Greenwich or even Woolwich were you feeling strong). I have done Waterloo – London Bridge and also Greenwich-London Bridge, and indeed Woolwich-Greenwich, so all these indvidual stretches are comfortably manageable. Also in this part of the world is Sainsbury’s main post-room where I once temped for a week (giving the agency feedback I took the opportunity to make it clear that I would not take any more work in that particular establishment – it was hell).
This name is either contradictory (a mansion is different from a house, being much larger) or tautologous (a mansion in a kind of large house) depending on your definitions. From 1871-1884 it was the eastern end of the District. The building after which the station is named is “the home and office of the Lord Mayor of the city of London” – an office filled four times by Richard Whittington (for once the story underplayed the the truth) in the fourteenth century.
A mainline rail terminus, albeit not a very significant one.
I mentioned this station in my post about the Central line because it is connected to the various lines that serve by Bank by means of escalators. This interchange was first created in 1933, but the current arrangement dates only from the opening of the Docklands Light Railway terminus at Bank.
At Aldgate East the Hammersmtih and City line joins the District and they run together as far as Barking. In between Aldgate East and Whitechapel there used be a line connecting to Shadwell (formerly East London Line, now London Overground). Whitechapel has been in the news recently because a museum that was given planning permission on the basis of being dedicated to the women of the East End turned out when it opened to be dedicated to Jack the Ripper. This has been the subject of a vigorous 38Degrees campaign seeking both to get the monstrosity closed and to establish a proper East End Womens Museum. Some of those involved in the campaign met with the mayor of Tower Hamlets recently, and he has apparently been sympathetic and has confirmed that he too is unhappy with the way the planning process was subverted by an act of calculated dishonesty. Beyond Whitechapel, the line has an interchange with the Central line at Mile End which is unique for an interchange between ‘tube’ and ‘subsurface’ lines in being cross-platform and underground, Bow Road, which has an interchange with the Docklands Light Railway station at Bow Church is the last station on the line to be in tunnel. East of Bow Road the line rises on a 1 in 45 gradient to emerge into the open some way before Bromley-by-Bow. West Ham is nowadays a major interchange, featuring mainline railways, the Jubilee line, the Docklands Light Railway (this section which runs from Stratford to Woolwich was once part of the line that became the nucleus of London Overground, which originally ran from Richmond to North Woolwich, but now terminates at Stratford) and of course the District and Hammersmith & City lines. The main line railway runs side by side with the District to Upminster, and then continues to Southend and Shoeburyness. Upton Park is until 2017, when the club in question move to the Olympic Stadium, the local station for West Ham United’s home ground. East Ham is now on the map as the location of a new trampoline park and laser maze. For more on this click on the picture below to read Time Out’s piece on the new attraction.
Barking in the eastern limit of the Hammersmith & City, also the terminus of London Overground branch from Gospel Oak and an interchange with mainline railways. Upminster is the easternmost destination currently served by London Underground.
EDGWARE ROAD, OLYMPIA AND WIMBLEDON
For this section I will be reverting to individual headings for station names…
A four platform station, where the Hammersmith & City line and the District and Circle lines meet (do not be fooled by the fact that both have stations called Paddington). This is the only one of the original 1863 stations to be served by District line trains.
PADDINGTON (PRAED STREET)
Why have I given this station a suffix that does not feature in it’s current title? Because the current plain “Paddington” designation is misleading – although the interchange to the Bakerloo line’s Paddington is a sensible one to have, you do far better for the mainline station and Hammersmith & City line to go on one stop to Edgware Road, make a quick cross-platform change to the Hammersmith & City and arrive at platforms that are structurally part of the mainline railway station (the two extra stops – one in each direction – plus a cross platform interchange taking less long between them than the official interchange up to the mainline station from here. Therefore to avoid misleading people the title of this station should either by given a suffix or changed completely, and the only interchange that should be shown is that with the Bakerloo. I have previously given Paddington a full post to itself, but failed to make the foregoing points with anything approaching sufficient force.
This station is on the north side of Hyde Park, and like the two on either side of it still has the same style of roof over the platforms as when it opened – a style now not seen anywhere else on the system.
This is the point at which this branch of the District diverges from the Circle line. The District branch continues south to the “Crewe of the Underground”, Earls Court, while the circle goes round to Gloucester Road (this section of track features in the Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plans, being the point at which the body of Arthur Cadogan West was fed through a rear window of a flat occupied by one Hugo Oberstein onto the roof of a conveniently stationary train, where it remained until being shaken off at Aldgate. Mycroft Holmes was sufficiently discombobulated by the case to change his routine (a thing so rare that his brother the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes likened it to seeing a tram car in a country lane) and pay a visit to Baker Street to seek assistance.
Trains to all manner of destinations pass through this station, but for the District it is a mere side branch..
An interchange with a London Overground branch. This station is fully open to the elements, as are all the others we have still to pass through.
The local station for Chelsea FC’s home ground, Stamford Bridge.
This would become a District line terminus, with an interchange to the new Hackney-Chelsea line, under official plans. In my personal ideas for the future it would be an interchange point but no terminus.
The local station for Fulham FC’s home ground, Craven Cottage. This would also be the best station to travel to if you wished to catch the Boat Race, second oldest of all the inter-university sporting contests.
The oldest of all the inter-university sporting contests is the Varsity Cricket Match, first played in 1827, two years before the first Boat Race took place.
This station is the first of a section that used to be mainline railway.
Another stop with a sporting connection – this is the local station for the world’s most famous tennis championship – Wimbledon. Although I have already given this station a full post, I show this picture again…
The second to last stop on our journey.
As we approach this station, we first join up with the mainline services from Waterloo coming in from Earlsfield, and then with Thameslink services coming in from Haydons Road. Wimbledon is also one terminus of the London Tram system. Along the north side of the tracks as one approaches Wimbledon runs Alexandra Road, and we pass underneath a bridge carrying Gap Road across the tracks to a junction.
ODDS AND ENDS
I have a few promotional pictures still to share, and some maps to round out this post. Other than that, I hope you enjoyed the ride…